Gems from a battered moleskine

Last December, I finished all the pages of the Moleskine I had kept for 2 years. It was filled with quotes, favourites song lyrics, and fragments of thoughts too skimpy for a blog post. Come the new year, I actually went through all of them and picked out 10 of my favourite quotes, thinking I’d include it in my “2016” blog post but it didn’t quite fit into my new year blog post and I never got around to making a separate one dedicated solely to it (or maybe I thought there was no point). But I just dug through old notes in my Notes app today and I found this. It made me really happy to read through them again, so I thought I’d post it.

“I decided then that I will never be jealous. I will never be vengeful. I won’t be threatened by the old, or by the new. I’ll open wide like a daisy every morning. I will make my work.” — Lena Dunham, in Not That Kind of Girl

“You will never climb Career Mountain and get to the top and shout ‘I Made It!’. You will rarely feel done or complete or even successful. Most people I know struggle with that complicated soup of feeling slighted on one hand and like a total fraud on the other. […] It doesn’t matter how much you get; you are left wanting more. Success is filled with MSG.” — Amy Poehler, in Yes Please

“I had a desire, and people said I had talent… but then what?” — Viola Davis

“Tonight we feast on the labour of centuries. Because we do, everyday and every night, the good things that we have in our lives are mostly because other people worked to make life better… and all I can ask is that my forgotten labours will add to the forgotten labours of other people that have made life on earth better. We matter because we make life better for people around us, and also people in the future. The story of humanity is not the story of a few people who had a huge gigantic effect on the world. That’s only the story we hear because it’s the easy story to tell.” — Hank Green, Redefining What it Means to Matter

“How’s this for feminist? I almost never understand why anyone would want to talk to me or read what I write. I’m still fighting something in my gut that suspects I’m so much more mediocre than I realise.” — Ashley Ford, in Women of the Hour ep. 1

“There are no more zero days. What’s a zero day? A zero day is when you don’t do a single thing towards whatever dream or goal or want or whatever that you got going on. No more zeros. I’m not saying you gotta bust an essay out everyday, that’s not the point. The point I’m trying to make is that you have to make yourself, promise yourself, that the new SYSTEM you live in is a NON-ZERO system. Didn’t do anything all day and it’s 11:58 PM? Write one sentence. One pushup. Read one page of that chapter. One. Because one is non zero.” — ryans01, in this reddit post (profanity omitted)

“We are brought up in the ethic that others, any others, all others, are by definition more interesting than ourselves; taught to be diffident, just this side of self-effacing. […] The rest of us are expected, rightly, to affect absorption in other people’s favorite dresses, other people’s trout. And so we do. But our notebooks give us away, for however dutifully we record what we see around us, the common denominator of all we see is always, transparently, shamelessly, the implacable “I.” We are not talking here about the kind of notebook that is patently for public consumption, a structural conceit for binding together a series of graceful [reflections]; we are talking about something private, about bits of the mind’s string too short to use, an indiscriminate and erratic assemblage with meaning only for its maker.” — Joan Didion, in On Keeping a Notebook

“If you live for external achievement, years pass and the deepest parts of you go unexplored and unstructured. You lack a moral vocabulary. It is easy to slip into a self-satisfied moral mediocrity. You grade yourself on a forgiving curve. You figure as long as you are not obviously hurting anybody and people seem to like you, you must be OK. But you live with an unconscious boredom, separated from the deepest meaning of life and the highest moral joys. Gradually, a humiliating gap opens between your actual self and your desired self, between you and those incandescent souls you sometimes meet.” — David Brooks, in The Moral Bucket List

“When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” — Audre Lorde

“Nobody tells people who are beginners—and I really wish someone had told this to me—but all of us who do creative work, we get into it and we get into it because we have good taste. But it’s that gap. For the first couple of years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good. Ok, it’s not that great. It’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not quite that good. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, your taste is still killer. Your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you. A lot of people never get past that phase. A lot of people, when they get to that point, they quit. And the thing I would just like say to you with all my heart is that most everybody I know who does interesting creative work, they went through a phase of years where they had really good taste and they could tell what they were making wasn’t as good as they wanted it to be; they knew it fell short, it didn’t have this special thing that we wanted it to have and the thing I would say to you is, everybody goes through that.” — Ira Glass on “the gap”

I hope these electrify you as much as it does me. ❤ I’ll write again tomorrow! Until then.

LOS ANGELES, CA.

I am so in denial over not being in LA right now. I had such a good time there and I’m so glad I made the leap and decided to go even though I didn’t have anyone to travel with. I initially wanted to go to San Francisco or maybe even Airbnb a super cute Brooklyn apartment but SF tickets were super expensive and my sister was like “ala tak nak la New York lagi…” lol. Since I had never been to the West Coast and LA flights were pretty cheap, I ended up going there. And this might just be hindsight bias or cognitive dissonance or whatever else we’ve learned in Psychology but I’m so glad I ended up going to LA! In a weird way, LA kind of reminded me of KL—the sprawl of the city, less-than-ideal public transport, sun. And… I don’t know. There was just something about it.

So, I left my apartment in Philly at like 3.45AM or something ridiculous like that because I had a 6AM flight on Spirit. I was too cheap to pay for seats obviously, so I got the aisle seat. I don’t care what most people think; to me, if it’s not a window seat, they all equally suck. Luckily, the window seat on my row was free so I woke up the dude sleeping peacefully in the middle seat, scooted over and slept my way to LA.

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Then began my struggle with LA public transport. I was staying at UCLA (thank you again Xen and Serena if you’re reading this!!!) so I had to take the bus there but it comes only at the top of every hour and because my plane landed at like 9.07AM, there was a lot of waiting to do. Thank god Ed Sheeran’s album had just come out so I was content sitting there with my earphones. I should also say ‘÷’ became the definitive soundtrack of my trip and I already know that when I listen to it years from now, I’ll get flashbacks of LA sun.

Serena and I spent Sunday walking around Melrose Avenue. On the way there, thanks to Uber Pool, I got a really nice view of Beverly Hills and Bel Air and oh my god. It was just… so nice… to just… look at. Every house looked like the kind of house you’d see in the background of celebrity pap shots and surely enough, around the corner, there were people selling maps to celebrities’ houses haha. Anyway, as much as I enjoyed treating my eyes to the beautiful Beverly Hills area (which is basically Bukit Bintang x 10 but super clean), that wasn’t where I was going. We visited the Melrose Trading Post which is basically a flea market, and we looked at really pretty shops from the outside and took lots of pictures in front of murals. It was a drizzly afternoon though so poor Serena had to carry around this huge rented UCLA umbrella the whole day, haha. Then we went to ~Hollywood~ to see the most touristy places: Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, Walk of Fame, Dolby Theatre, etc etc. I literally looked around for 10 minutes and was like ok what’s next? Seriously, the Walk of Fame is hardly an attraction. It’s literally pavement. But I mean, if you’re in LA for the first time I guess you “have” to or whatever, haha.

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This is where the Oscars are held!
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Grauman’s Chinese Theatre

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Anyway, my favourite part of the day was going to Griffith Observatory. I guess people go for the view more than anything. Serena asked me if I wanted to go to for the observatory or just to see the outside of it and I was like, “are you kidding? I am struggling through Astronomy right now, the last place I want to go to is an observatory.” Heh. But we went at about sunset and the view really was breathtaking. My phone died as soon as we got there though, so we actually did end up going inside… to look for a power outlet, haha. Serena’s phone ran out of battery too so we really needed a charger because a cab was going to cost us a bomb to get back to campus (this one guy said it’d be about $40…) and we needed to call an Uber. After I charged my phone, we went outside to get picked up and my phone did the thing where it goes down to like 5% or whatever and the car was still like 10 minutes away and the power bank was out of power and it was the most stressful part of the trip. I even memorised the car’s plate number because I didn’t want to keep checking my phone for it and actually, now that I think about it, I oddly still remember the driver’s name and license plate number lol.

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The next few days were mostly spent wandering about LA on my own and even though I knew I’d be fine, I actually found myself enjoying it way more than I thought. My apprehensions about travelling alone were mostly surrounding navigation (I’m somewhat directionally challenged) and um… I guess you could say “photography” (basically I had no one to take pictures of me!!!) but it actually turned out fine and I really liked it because I could kind of just… do whatever I wanted.

I ate wherever I wanted, I stayed at any place I went for how long I wanted and I just did whatever I wanted. It sounds self-centered, I know, but I was alone so I could, and I dare you to tell me it doesn’t sound appealing. I got to stay for a super long time at the Toba Khedoori exhibit at LACMA without worrying about the rest of my group wanting to move on to the next building. I stayed for an extra long time at brunch, sitting in my corner drinking grapefruit juice and writing in my journal quietly. It, was, pure bliss.

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Brunch at Republique

On Monday, I went Downtown by bus/Metro. I took the bus to Hollywood from Westwood, and stopped by at Amoeba Music on my way. Then I took the metro downtown. It’s quite clear that the Metro isn’t the most popular mode of transport—it was literally sunyi sepi at the Hollywood & Vine station. When I got there, I had lunch at Grand Central Market which was pretty cool. I’m sure most things there were really good but I had heard about Eggslut from, well, Instagram to be honest, and I had known for months that I’d eat there if ever went to LA. They had baked eggs with potato puree and a hint of salt and chives and as a huge fan of eggs, I have to say that went down as eggs in one of its best forms. Ugh. Amazing. I really liked Downtown LA in general. It felt a bit more like New York; more skyscrapers and old historic buildings, sans a lot of the bustle. It was also here where I finally made my way to a Blue Bottle even though I had been meaning to pay one of their cafes in New York a visit every time I’ve been in the city. I had their New Orleans iced coffee and it was just perfect. They also served me my miso cookie in a chemex filter, which I thought was a really nice touch. And oh my god, the whole cafe was beautiful—I felt like I was having coffee at an Apple store.

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Grand Central Market

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Walt Disney Concert Hall

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When I sent Jamie a bunch of photos of this place, she responded to this specific one, with “omg dayana ❤️❤️❤️ immaculately dressed man executing the perfect pourover” LOL.

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My favourite place in the area was definitely The Last Bookstore, highly recommended to me by friends and LA Uber drivers. It was a really cool place, with a “labyrinth” of shelves upstairs leading to a little hallway of cute artsy shops. I must’ve spent over an hour there on the couch, laughing to myself reading Texts from Jane Eyre.

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On Tuesday, I spent a very long time at LACMA after an insanely good brunch (shoutout to Republique for their amazing creme brulee bomboloni, ugh). Like I said earlier, I spent an insanely long time at Toba Khedoori’s exhibit, chatting with an art student who helped me think about the pieces and “how we fit in them” which was really cool. Then I walked like 20 minutes to The Grove. I really liked their Farmers’ Market and I would’ve tried some food there if I wasn’t so full from brunch. The shopping area whatever you call it was very Disneyland-like which I guess compensated in some small way for me not dedicating a day to Anaheim, haha. I obvs didn’t do any shopping, but the weather was absolutely beautiful so I spent quite a bit of time lying on the grass the comfy blankets they provided and read a couple of chapters of Gloria Steinem’s My Life on the Road, which is my March read. Then, on my way back to campus, my Uber driver (very politely) scolded me for not investing 15 extra dollars to see the Picasso and Rivera exhibit at LACMA, haha.

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I got to hang out with Serena and Xen later than evening, and they actually took me to one of UCLA’s dining halls which were all insanely fancy. Seriously, they make Commons and Kings Court look really sad in comparison. It was also strange to think that had I not gotten into Penn, I would’ve gone to UCLA and that campus with its hotel-like dining halls, winding roads, uphill treks and ideal weather could have very well been my life.

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I spent my last day in LA at Venice. I wasn’t quite sure how that was going to work since I planned to go straight to the airport from the beach, meaning I’d have my suitcase with me. Thankfully, my googling skills revealed that Hotel Erwin helps people store bags for like $5 and they gave me complimentary sunblock and a towel and it was all good. I had lunch at Eggslut again because, well, you know… eggs. And also because it was right next to Hotel Erwin so I just… I had to.

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😍😍😍

Venice reminded me a bit of Port Dickson meets Batu Ferringhi, if they were like 50x cleaner and full of white people. I saw the Venice Canals which were so pretty, but there was like absolutely nothing for me to do there other than look at it so I literally sat on the side of the bridge for a bit, just enjoying the weather and the view.

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I think it is worth mentioning that I can’t quite remember when I last went to a beach. June 2015?! Even then, it was just so that I could get on a boat and—oh my god, this is definitely a huge digression but as I typed that last sentence, I just remembered that I think in 2015 in Phuket, I embarrassed myself at the beach when I screamed everyone’s bloody eardrums out when a monkey approached my boat, lol yikes. Anyway. So it’s been forever since I’ve been to a beach. (I’m 100% prepared for one of my sisters to text me being like “we went to the beach last summer -_-” but for now I’m pretty sure 2015 was the last time)

Anyway, anyway, anyway! Ok. Venice. Focus, Dayana. So yes, I took my free towel and trekked to the beach. I say trek because it was so tiring to walk across the beach to get close enough to the water… like the sand was so deep and my legs are… pretty weak I guess. It reminded me of when those teams in Amazing Race season 28 had to lead some camels through the desert—not quite the same thing, but it reminded me of that. I took a nap at the beach, read another chapter of my book and just relaxed to the sound of the waves. I did not get into the water, if you can believe it. And if you know me you probably can totally believe it because I don’t like the way sand sticks to your feet once you’ve stepped on water and I hate getting wet in general. Plus, I packed really light and didn’t have spare clothes or even sandals. I literally went to the beach with my Flyknits and a Longchamp bag with my Macbook in it because I didn’t want to leave it at the hotel lol. And I was fully aware of how silly it all might have looked but I was just having the time of my life that I didn’t care at all.

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I really liked Venice, especially Abbot Kinney Boulevard. There were lots of cute shops and restaurants there. Huset was this adorable store selling Scandinavian homeware and I was so excited to see the candles I almost bought at the Copenhagen airport last December. I visited the Toms flagship store, went into Warby Parker for the first time (even though there’s literally a store on like 15th and Walnut or something in Center City) and I had the best damn ice cream OF. MY. LIFE. at Salt & Straw. When I got the first spoon of my taste test, I got the same feeling I had when I took the first sips of coffee at Monmouth in London and Devocion in New York, i.e. I was just absolutely transported. It must’ve been really popular too, given the queue went around the block. I tried Honey Lavender and oh my god it was sooo good. When I first arrived in Westwood on Sunday morning, I made a quick visit to Saffron & Rose, this Persian ice cream place and I thought that was the best ice cream ever. I guess it was, but by Wednesday it was dethroned when I had Honey Lavender at Salt & Straw. I also got their salty caramel flavour because salted caramel is my favourite dessert flavour of all time. I told Rafael, the guy who served me, that I like saltiness in ice cream so much that I sometimes joke I wish they’d make an ice cream that was salt with caramel instead of a bit of salt on caramel. He was immediately like, “oh, then you’re in for a treat because that’s what this is” and oh my god, it really was. I just realised I’ve spent most of this paragraph talking about this ice cream place and you know what… I am more than ok with that because Salt & Straw really deserves it.

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I went back to the beach that evening to have early dinner and, I have to say, an ibuprofen. The sun was getting to be a bit much, haha, and I knew if I let the headache continue for even a little longer, the flight back to Philly would not have been a pleasant one. I watched the sunset on the beach with my salmon poke bowl in all my contentment with the sweet sounds of Justin Bieber’s most recent hits blaring from the boardwalk.

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And that’s… pretty much it. I picked up my suitcase and made my way to LAX without incident so, no, no celebrity sightings. Although, now that I think about it, when Serena and I were on Melrose, we heard a bunch of people going like “Oh my god, isn’t that Skrillex? I met him at the Grammys!” LA, amirite? Hahaha I don’t even know if they were right, but the guy they were talking about did at least look like Skrillex. But yeah, LAX is a pretty crappy airport (the guys behind me in line were all wishfully talking about Changi while in line for security) and despite not wanting to leave LA, I was desperate to get out of the airport. I told my family that it reminded me of Subang Parade circa 2000.

I got into Philly early in the morning, about 4.30AM. I was asleep by six and woke up at noon. I am admittedly a little bit jet lagged still, even though the time difference between the coasts is only 3 hours. I probably could have gotten over it last night if Kim and I hadn’t caught the 11PM screening of Get Out. I’m not one for horror films—Kim and I seriously were gasping and squealing non stop throughout the entire movie—but though Get Out is decidedly not enough to convert me into a scary movie person, I did think it was well thought out, unique and had great cinematography.

Anyway. It’s like 5.45PM in the evening as I write this and I have to get ready to go to dinner. I hope you liked this post and I’m sorry I didn’t post anything last week—I was labouring over 5 other written pieces all due on Sunday and my writing juices were all spent. Plus, nothing happened last week. So I’ll make up for it next week or something. I hope you had a good week, enjoy the weekend!

P.S. It took all the strength I had in my body to not title this post with some La La Land reference. I just thought it would be too cliche, even for me.

Graduation Goggles?

I had coffee recently with an alum named Alex, who asked me how it feels to be so close to the end of my college career. I think about this a lot—like, I can actually confidently say I think about it everyday—but I never really know what to say when someone asks.

In a way, I like it. I like that it’s coming to an end because I’m so tired. I’m not saying that the “real world” is easier than school because I know that you’re responsible for so much more once you start working etc (or at least, so I’ve been told), but the thing about being in college is that you are doing your job 24/7. I wake up in the morning even on weekends and I try to get to work as soon as possible. I am tempted to get into bed at 11.30 p.m. on a weekday and my mind sends out an internal alert that’s basically saying, “um, are you sure you can afford that?”. Working hours are so fluid, so boundaryless. If you’re writing an essay or studying for an exam, there’s always another sentence you can edit or another chapter you could go over again. There’s just no limit to how much you can work, especially when you LIVE on a campus and almost everywhere you look, people are working. Imagine living in your office with all your colleagues?! Anyway. I’m eager to get away from this pressure cooker of a place.

I also like the feeling of being almost done. It’s this silly thing that our human brains do where like, we see things differently the closer we are to it being finished. You know what I mean: graduation goggles. I now have all this premature nostalgia and it’s so interesting because it’s one thing to have nostalgia about a phase of your life that’s behind you, but it’s a whole other thing to feel nostalgic about something that hasn’t ended, because it’s this brief window of time when you get to live it and almost miss it at the same time. When Alex asked me how I felt, I told her it feels strange—there were all these things I had always known I should feel grateful for but still used to whine about, and now I’m suddenly talking about them like “Wow isn’t this great? This is amazing. Look at this bitter cold, it’s wonderful. I have a midterm next week, how exciting!”

Okay, obviously that was a slight exaggeration. But yeah, I walk down Walnut on my way to class every day and in my mind I’m like, “thanks, Philly; thanks for hosting me these past few years”. Most (if not all) of my freshman-year wide-eyed wonder dissipated without notice a long time ago. I no longer walk through any corner of campus feeling the need to look around, no more “what building is this?”, no more “oh, that’s where that road leads to”. All that freshness has gone, only to be replaced by a sense of familiarity and comfort. But this premature nostalgia, these “graduation goggles” have resurrected my freshman-year eyesight to some extent. For the first time in a long time, I’m seeing Van Pelt library as a brilliant resource instead of just referring to it as a place that smells like socks and feels like fatigue. For the first time in a long time, I’m trying to go to as many events as I can instead of mindlessly skimming through Facebook event invites. It’s nice.

But of course, I can’t ignore the undercurrent of impending grief that powers my nostalgia. I have said this repeatedly, but soon, I won’t live within a 1-mile radius of all my friends. My friends are not going to come over at a moment’s notice at midnight to hang out with me until we can no longer hold up our eyelids. Soon, I won’t be handed dense readings about everything from economics to pop culture and be pushed to read and discuss them. I won’t be invited to hear people like Joe Biden and Malcolm Gladwell speak anymore. That… sucks.

It especially sucks because even though I know I’ve gotten a lot out of Penn—events, speakers, classes, leadership roles, mentors—I don’t see how I’m any better because of it. So, part of me just isn’t ready to leave. It’s like going to the petrol station with a malfunctioning gas indicator and feeling like you can’t leave yet even though you have to because you don’t think your tank is full yet. Does that make sense? Do you know what I mean? I don’t think I’ve gotten enough skills yet, or become smart enough yet. I could still become so much sharper, so much more polished.

Seriously though, I know I’ve mentioned this before but my fear of stagnation runs so deep. I worry that I’ve laboured over all these college courses—without quite knowing how they will someday benefit me—only to settle in a crappy office job where I don’t feel like I’m learning and growing. I am fully aware that I risk sounding like the typical whining millennial but say what you want, I genuinely worry that I’ve worked so hard only for it to not matter, for it to not amount to anything more than to act as a bit of glimmer on an otherwise-dull resume.

I’ve been thinking about this lately, and I think part of what’s driving this specific feeling is the fact that I’m probably not heading to some high-paying, prestigious job. I feel like the culture at Penn is such that a significant fraction of my graduating class will head to finance and consulting jobs so having other jobs can make you feel like you’re “underachieving”, even if going to Wall Street is the last thing you want. But there is a certain rigor, or at least, a perception of an intellectual rigor that is associated with finance and consulting jobs that I feel like I will be missing out on. I mean, I have to stress that I don’t think other jobs are easy, but the culture at large definitely treats it that way; whether or not you believe it yourself, the belief slowly seeps through your skin and gets to you.

I’m trying to remind myself that there are ways to learn beyond school, even if it means a loss of a structure I’ve gotten so used to. I’m trying to remind myself that meaningful, honest work is never ever beneath me, even if I can calculate in dollar terms what my opportunity cost is. I’m trying to remind myself I am not sealing my fate, that my future isn’t irreversible; it cannot be cemented by donning a cap and gown and walking across the stage. But it’ll take some time.

So, with 11 weeks to go… that’s where I’m at.

When Your Neighbour Lends You Her Muffin Pan

Every now and then, I’ll think of something I want to make but realise I don’t have one thing to do it. One of the things that one thing tends to be is a muffin pan. Well, this one week, (I’ve been putting this post off for so long I don’t even remember what week it was) I managed to get my hands on a muffin pan.

The first thing I made were these egg breakfast muffins. They were so good. I mean, it combines everything I love in a breakfast: some salmon slices, a bit of vegetables (tomatoes, mushrooms and spinach), cheese and of course, eggs.

All I did was sauté the vegetables a little bit with some garlic and olive oil, then add them into a bowl of beaten eggs. Toss in some mozzarella. Salt and pepper. Butter the pan. Pour them in. Bake at 350 deg F/180 deg C for about 20 mins. It’s that easy! I like baking because I can take a shower or whatever while it’s in there and I don’t really have to do anything other than wait.

I brought these muffins to Astronomy that week (again, no idea what week this was). Ken and Hui Jie ate some in class and they didn’t throw up so I guess there’s that!

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I promise they taste better than they look!

I also really wanted to make muffin pan potato gratins because I’ve been obsessed with this Youtube channel called Everyday Food—they make every recipe look so simple and so good that it literally inspires me to keep trying new things.

Anyway, so the potato gratin recipe was probably the simplest one. It’s probably one of the simplest things in the world to make, ok so listen up: preheat your oven to 400 deg F/200 deg C, slice some potatoes up thinly (I only used one), season them with salt and pepper generously and stack the slices up on the muffin pan. Then, pour some good old heavy cream over each stack of potato slices. The recipe recommends about 1 tablespoon for each stack but I just did whatever I wanted because I hate measurements.

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You might remember this picture right on top of this paragraph from Jamie’s instagram post which I posted a screenshot of on my #TeamGratitude post a few weeks ago 😉  she really liked it, which made me happy!

Okay, so the last thing I made with my borrowed muffin pan was banana muffins! Bananas are not my favourite fruit because of their mushy, fibrous (?) texture. I only buy them because they’re super low-maintenance. Like, when I want one, I don’t need to slice it or anything like I’d need to with peaches or apples. (Yes I have to slice apples because I feel like I have weak teeth)

The thing about buying groceries in general though, is that sometimes I don’t know what I’ll need/want to eat. So I bought some bananas and ended up not eating them quickly enough. I had three browning bananas sitting on my counter and I decided to turn them into muffins. I know my mom makes banana pancakes, but I just can’t say I’m a huge fan of banana pancakes because I feel like it makes pancakes less fluffy (?) so I thought I’d try muffins instead.

All you need to do is mash 3 bananas, add some sugar (according to this recipe—which I’m not entirely sure is the one I used LOL—3/4 cups), an egg and some melted butter. Then add the flour, baking powder and salt and bake! I was actually surprised that the recipe was enough for 12 whole muffins.

This was super easy, like I literally whipped them up just as I was about to go out to see Cristina that Sunday. They also seem to keep for a few days. I brought them to Astronomy on Tuesday for Ken and Hui Jie to eat as well and again, they didn’t throw up so there’s that! Haha.

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Cristi with my muffins ❤

Anyway, I encourage you to try some of these because they make your kitchen/living room smell sooo nice!! Also, I have a long list of other recipes I wanted to post about but never got around to doing so maybe I’ll do that this week or the next 🙂 until then, have a good weekend!

A Night of Pizza and Stars

The week started off nicely. I voluntarily attended Pollack’s lecture in the morning, did some reading, had lunch with Kimmy and then went to the gym in the afternoon. Kim and I took Creative Writing together last Fall and she’s just my favourite little freshman because of how sharp she is. I wish I was half as clever and confident as she is when I was a freshman. She swiped me into a dining hall and it felt surreal to have lunch at Commons and think about how I used to go there all the time. It made me reckon with how long its been since I first got here in 2013.

Freshman enthusiastic about dining hall ice cream.

Later that evening, Hui Jie and I trekked to DRL (this crappy math building on the edge of campus) because, as part of an Astronomy class we’re taking, we had to complete this activity about observing the moon and that’s where the telescopes are. It was pretty cool! I am quite sure that was my first time using a telescope and seeing the moon up close was just breathtaking.

After we did our moon observation, we went to Dock St for my favourite pizza place in West Philly. Hui Jie had never been there before and I was so excited for her to try the pear and brie pizza. We used to have a tradition of getting spinach + mushroom + ricotta pizza delivered, so I proposed going to Dock St for a little bit of an ~upgrade~ haha.

Hence, the title of this blog post, which she coined, by the way:

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How regrettable that there’s proof of me typing “uve”—how lazy must I be?!

Other than that, this week has been rather uneventful. Just the usuals: gym, class, read, eat, sleep. But still, here are 5 of my highlights from the week in unnecessarily rambly paragraphs.

First, I haven’t gotten sore from the gym in the past 2-3 weeks even though I’ve been consistently doing the same things. I literally thought this day would never come. I guess that means I should start doing a little bit more. Hmm. Honestly, that’s what I love most about working out. It really gives you an appreciation for how your mind quits before your body does. Anyone who knows me knows that I am 100% in support of ~listening to yourself~ because that’ll tell you what’s “too much”, but I also think there’s a value in being able to tell that inner voice to just. shut. up.

Obviously, that’s not without boundaries lah kan—I’m not going to be running on the treadmill for at top speed for 2 hours straight in my current state but still, I think it’s such a valuable skill to be able to responsibly set a reasonable target for yourself and then ignore the crap out of the whiny voice tempting you to quit. I was thinking about that yesterday at the gym. Like, when I’m struggling to follow the instructor in a class, I realise I kind of “switch modes” into a “my feelings don’t matter” mental state. It’s just really interesting though, because a) I’m always uncertain about whether or not I’m setting appropriate goals and b) you really have to be cautious/responsible, I think, about sliding in and out of that feeling-less state.

Second highlight is a short one: I told Jamie about some songs on my “at the mo” playlist, which is my condensed playlist of whatever songs I’m currently listening to (and it’s on the sidebar of this site) and she has been playing it non-stop and I love it!!! I love it when people actually like my recommendations.

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She has literally been listening to it the entire time I’ve been writing this post ❤

Third, I have found two new favourite blogs to read right now. One of them is my friend Nate’s, please read it here. Nate is a recent Penn graduate, and I know him because we were in the same Psychology class last Spring. (In fact, I’ve mentioned him on here before, in a post from that semester!) He’s currently a Fulbright scholar in Kampung Gajah, Perak of all places! I absolutely love reading about his day to day life in Malaysia, and getting glimpses of what it’s like to experience my home country as an outsider, particularly because he’s living in a more rural area—something I don’t really have experience with. In one post, he wrote about trying “Maryland chicken” because he’s from Maryland and was curious about it—it cracked me up so much. In another post, he wrote about this whole episode he had with a pothole in some jalan belakang, and his attempt to file a police report about it. I thought it was so funny how well I could relate to all the confusion and frustration he felt despite having never filed a police report myself. He has also repeatedly mentions “Malaysian hospitality” and that really intrigued me because I never really thought about that growing up in Malaysia and part of me wonders what he’s getting at and whether it’s just a product of him being enthralled by a foreign place/culture. Also, Nate is just a fantastic writer; his narration is consistently introspective and entertaining and I’m always looking forward to his next posts.

The other blog I really like is Amal’s. Read it here! I don’t know Amal personally and we’ve never even met—she’s a friend of my friend Nadia and to be honest, I’m not entirely sure how I came across her blog in the first place but I’m so glad I did. On my blog, I always get caught up writing about whatever I did during the week and whatnot, without ever really putting in the time and effort to focus on one specific thing I’m thinking about or doing and just expand on it, which is what I’d like to do more of. But Amal does that and she does it really well. Her most recent post was all about her nose bleeds and it sounds weird but it was actually really entertaining to read, for some reason. She’s also a lot more open and honest with her posts which makes them so meaningful to me, especially since she is studying in Canada (which has a similar education system to the US) and, based on her posts, is still kind of figuring out what to do with her future (like me) and is trying to navigate where she fits in between the two cultures (also like me). Anyway, here are some of my favourites from her blog: Potonglah Bawang Sikit, about the way us girls are socialised; Pride and Opinions, in which she uses her hatred for mermaid skirts (which I proudly share) to talk about strong opinions in general; and Displaced in Space, where she talks about fitting in, or rather, not fitting in anywhere.

Fourth, it snowed today so Astronomy got cancelled this morning!!! For some reason I haven’t been getting good sleep all week, but this morning, oh god, this morning was bliss. Hui Jie and I usually have lunch together (with Ken, of course!) after Astro but today we went to the Quad to take some pictures. We weren’t even there for very long and yet, she still managed to turn the trip into a snow fight. Granted, I threw the first snowball but I swear, it was only because I could see her putting on her coat, overtly eyeing the pile of snow, haha.

Fifth, I really loved the most recent episodes of The Truth podcast! Their whole thing is that they make “movies for your ears” and I promise you they live up to that lofty promise. The other day, I recommended “Dark End of the Mall”. Today, I’m imploring you to listen to Mirror Lake (it’s the second part of the episode) and to A Drop of the Ocean. I can’t say much without giving it away so just trust me, okay? Listen to it. They blew my mind.

So yeah, like I said, the week was kind of uneventful. 3/5 of my highlights are… on the internet LOL. Anyway, hopefully I’ll have more interesting things to write about next week. Until then, thanks for reading. ❤

#TeamGratitude

Errr, yeah. I just used a hashtag in my title. I have always made a conscious decision not to do that up to this point, but let me explain. My friend Jamie wrote earlier this year on Facebook that she is committing to “using gratitude as her internal compass” and I just absolutely loved that. Ever since then, we’ve been referring to our duo was Team Gratitude, often using it in hashtags like #teamgratitudegoesbaking for that one time we made lemon sugar cookies.

Anyway. What I really wanted to write about is how much I appreciate my friends, Jamie being one of them. Let me first start by saying that if you don’t follow Jamie on Instagram, I think you should. Her pictures are always pretty but it’s the captions that really get me. She posts pictures of walks to classes, trips to New York, restaurant visits… but laced in all of those pictures is always a narrative of discovery, reflection and gratitude. For example, she wrote the following caption here:

“in the moments of stillness and solitude today—including on my walk home on locust—I thought about the deep level of gratitude I have for the people I am fortunate to surround myself with: the ones who are effusive with their appreciation and approval, generous with their time and company, and magnanimous in their acceptance of my shortcomings and flaws.”

I’ve also been lucky enough to be the subject of her posts a couple of times and I guess what I want to say here is that I feel so grateful to have a friend who so freely expresses her gratitude and appreciation of the effort I put into our relationship. It’s something I realised doesn’t come as a given at all, something I absolutely cannot take for granted.

Jamie and I were hanging out in my room last night after she so nicely agreed to come over and help me eat some of my tiny potato gratins. She loved it so much she literally took a picture of it and wanted to post it on Instagram. A little later, I posted something on Facebook and I see that she gets notifications for whenever I publish something. I don’t even know how to fully express how taken aback I was?? I mean, Jamie’s great—she always listens to me without judgement and I think we’re so similar in a lot of ways so I like how easy it is for us to relate to each other but beyond that… I never really pay much thought to being appreciated by anyone (unless it gets to the point where I feel so unappreciated) so seeing her being that interested in me and what I do/say felt really nice. I’ve been seeing her every day for the past few days and honestly, it just makes me so happy every single time.

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Another person I really want to give a huge shoutout to is Clare, who stands as one of the first friends I made at Penn because we were freshman year hallmates. That in and of itself is already a huge thing for me to be grateful for because there’s nothing more comforting to a lost and lonely freshman on a Friday night than another lost and lonely freshman to commiserate with. Apart from that, I would’ve never had the guts to take the creative writing class I took last semester (which ended up being one my favourite experiences/classes at Penn) and never would have heard about the Penn Perspectives lecture series if it wasn’t for her. So there’s also that!

But Clare and I had brunch yesterday morning at South Street and I just, oh my god, it just made me so much more grateful that we were put on the same hall in the Quad over 3 years ago. Clare is an English major and she’s writing her thesis on aspiring journalists who grew up watching Rory Gilmore on Gilmore Girls, which is really cool to hear about. Also, she’s into screenwriting and wants to go into film as a career and I just get really excited every time she talks about what she’s working on and what she wants to do, just like she gets excited listening to me talk about my projects and ideas. She was talking to me yesterday about how she’s trying to internalise the idea that we need to give ourselves more permission instead of barriers to make the things we want to make. I know she said that with the full knowledge that I, like her, often sell myself short. It’s just so invigorating to have a friend who’s ambitious and always growing but who is, at the same time, tugging me along.

Oh, it also is worth noting that I’m deeply thankful for Clare who shares both my sadness over Vine closing down and my enthusiasm for highly-relatable Tumblr quotes.

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Clare, at brunch yesterday looking as cute as ever.
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CLARE AND ME AT A HALL BRUNCH THING IN 2014!!!!!!

This week gave me a lot to be grateful for, truthfully. I’ve been thinking about how it’s not just my friends at Penn who’ve shaped my experiences—I am genuinely grateful to every person who has, even in the littlest ways. Like, on Thursday, after a long 3-hour class, my friends and I took a Lyft over to Center City to go see the Mask and Wig spring show. They’re a musical comedy troupe and their shows are so good. This is the third time I’ve seen one of their shows and it just never disappoints. The script was hilarious, the songs were catchy and the story was heart warming and riveting. The whole time I was watching, I couldn’t help thinking about how these guys are also taking a full course load, looking for jobs and managing all the other extracurriculars they have. I’ve said this before but the amount of talent I’ve seen at Penn will just never fail to blow me away. Sometimes you (or, at least, I) forget what a vibrant campus you’re a part of because you’re so buried in your own workload. Ken, Hui Jie, May May and I had a lot of fun at the show that night and we’re thankful for these experiences.

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This isn’t to say that only my Penn friends deserve praise. I spent a good amount of time on Friday night talking to my friend Nadia on WhatsApp. I’ve been so curious about her job at Nelissa Hilman and I totally respect her decision to not go down the more typical corporate life route despite studying business and being pressured to by her parents. It was so cool to hear her talk about her experience working there and her dreams for the future. I think this is true for most people, but I find it very difficult to not be interested and excited listening to someone who is excited about something they really care about. She was also super supportive of me and my current state of exploration job-wise and it was so heart-warming to see her be so excited to listen to my plans/hopes for my future. It’s just one of those moments when you’re like, this is what we need more of!!! Girls supporting girls and their dreams!!! I. am. all. for. it.

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Ok just look at what a wholesome conversation snippet this is (lol)

Nadia and I have only met like a handful of times really (twice, I think?)—we know each other primarily through Twitter and Instagram over the years I guess, so I have to say, I really appreciate how a virtual relationship can sometimes carry over into a real life one and all the effort it takes from both people for that to happen. Also, Nadia, if you’re reading this, (and I know you are, because you are just the most supportive and just best freakin’ blog reader anyone could ever have in their life lol) I promise I didn’t just write this because you wrote a similar thing on your blog!!! Hahaha. I saw what you wrote and I was like “oh well, guess she beat me to it”.

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The last time I met Nadia in London, over A YEAR ago.

Ok anyway. This is now at least 20 minutes late because it’s already Monday of the next week so I’m sorry and I’ll cut short my sappiness. I know it’s cheesy as hell and probably not that interesting for you to read if you weren’t mentioned here, haha, but over the years I’ve come to realise that some of the things I value highly in relationships don’t always come easy with every person I meet and when I see them in the friendships I do have, I just revel in it.

27 Hours in New York

I think I’ve just had the best weekend I can remember. And it’s only Friday night.

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Every time I tried to take a picture of the NYC skyline. This happens.

Okay, to be fair, this “weekend” of mine started on Thursday evening when I got on a Megabus to New York. I made the trip to the city because one of my favourite podcast companies, Gimlet, had an event/mixer thing for their listeners who’ve made donations (I fully believe in supporting the products etc you love, btw, which is why, when I can, I make contributions to independent content production I believe in). I had no idea who was going to be at the event, how big it was going to be or how to prepare myself but when I got the email invite, I just knew I had to go.

I coaxed my friends to come with me, of course. If you know me, you know I hate going to these “networking” type events at all, much less attending them alone. Anyway, everyone said no for various reasons but I still really wanted to go no matter what. When I got to the event space in Brooklyn, I walked in all confident as if I knew what I was doing and as soon as I put my coat away, I realised I had just put myself in a room full of chic-and-adult-looking New Yorkers, who are all talking to each other….. so I did what any normal borderline-panicked person would do: go to the bathroom to text like 3 of my friends LOL. I couldn’t stay in there for too long because I didn’t want people to think I was pooping, so eventually one social anxiety overpowered the other and I just pushed myself out that bathroom door. I made awkward eye contact with someone in a circle that didn’t seem too “tight” and just worked my way from there. Fake it ’til you make it, right?

It ended up being really great; I was still a little nervous throughout (which is why I took only one picture at the entire event), but I met some cool people. Data analyst at Spotify, web developer for advertisers, freelance graphic designer, costume-makers, and of course, lots of podcast producers/Gimlet staff. I think it was a really interesting experience because, being in college in a foreign country, I don’t meet people outside of college ever. Even though I’ve “lived” here for 3+ years, it has never really felt like I really lived here, or could live here in the future. But I realise now that it’s just because I’ve been so disconnected thanks to the “Penn bubble” or whatever, and it forced me to consider the possibility that I actually do have what it takes to create friends and networks of acquaintances wherever I go, even if that might take some time and create some anxiety.

The event was also really fun because I got to meet a lot of other podcast listeners. People were recommending their favourite shows and we were all freaking out over our favourite episodes which I appreciated so much because none of my friends really listen to any of these things so whenever I listen to something that blows my mind I just kind of keep it to myself (?) Other people there shared that sentiment too—it was pretty clear that we were all glad to finally be able to be collectively enthusiastic about something. It felt so nerdy but so good.

Oh!!!! And I won’t forget to mention that I met ALEX BLUMBERG!!!!!!!!!!!! He’s the Co-Founder of Gimlet and if you remember, I’ve mentioned that I’ve been following his story of how he built Gimlet since the summer  (listen to it on the show StartUp here). I. Cannot. Belieeeeeeve it. I only got to speak to him a few minutes before he left but I spoke to his wife Nazanin (who also works at Gimlet) for quite a while and they’re just overwhelmingly nice people and because I’ve followed the development of their company through StartUp, I just felt so proud to see what they’ve built and I am so genuinely honoured to have met them. Ahhh.

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Alex, Nazanin and lil’ ol’ me!!!

Let me also just toss in the fact that at some point throughout this event, Hari Kondabolu, host of the podcast Politically Reactive and extraordinary stand-up comedian (watch one of my favs of his skits here!!!) just walks in to the room. My jaw dropped. I legitimately stuttered for a bit but ultimately managed to snag a selfie (I won’t post the selfie because I look goofy as hell but you’ll just have to take my word for it). I told him I was a big fan of his Waiting for 2042 set, that I respect how he has consistently used comedy as a means to advocate for equality for Asians, Muslims, Blacks, Natives etc. He was so nice about it even though I was tripping over myself. So trust me when I say it was an amazing night.

Anyway, so the event gave me a reason to go to New York for a night. I could have just gone back to Philly after the event but I didn’t really want to be making my way from Brooklyn all the way to the Megabus place near 12th Ave so late at night… and well, I can’t say no to a good day in New York City alone.

Ok, well, I wasn’t alone the whole time. I stayed with my friend Hannah who’s a junior at Columbia so I got to hang out with her that night. I got brunch with Angela the next morning, who is a sophomore at Columbia (I know both of these super smart people from USAPPS!). Then, I did a little bit of wandering. I did some of the touristy things I’ve only done on the surface. Like, I’ve been to The Met but only the gift store really so today I went for reals. I’ve seen Columbia from a distance but had never explored the area. I’ve passed the UN before but today I actually did the whole tour thing (which was so cool by the way, I could not contain my excitement the whole time—the tour guide appreciated me, I swear). Oh and yeah, I never go to New York without a stop at Milk Bar.

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How GRAND is this?!
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I saw this on my way to The UN headquarters and well, I had to. Heh.
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The flags, arranged from Afghanistan-Zimbabwe
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oh hi :’)

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General Assembly Hall!!!!!
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I’ll never get tired of this ice cream, I think.

Then, later in the evening, I took the Subway to Soho to visit WNYC. My friend Sarah works there on On the Media and she is beyond kind for offering to show me around the studio. I even got to bump into the CEO of WNYC and Brian Lehrer of The Brian Lehrer Show (I tried very hard to keep my cool so as to not embarrass Sarah). She basically gave me a rundown of how things work and showed me where they record, etc. It was really cool because I actually listen to WNYC shows and to see where they’re produced was amazing. It felt like visiting a movie set, but for radio.

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Sarah and me, clearly looking at our own reflections in my phone and not the camera. LOL.

After showing me around, Sarah and I got dinner together in West Village. I love that area so much and I’ve been there quite a few times now so when I’m there, I have this sense of familiarity with it that I really like having (if that makes sense? I feel like that was a poorly-worded sentence). We got food at this amazing vegan place called by CHLOE. Aida and I went when she visited me last March and it was so good, I’m glad I went back. I was pretty amazed by their chipotle aioli and beet ketchup sauce. Absolutely delicious. I’m eating some of their salad as we speak (yes, I brought it back with me on the bus).

It was so nice to meet Sarah! We’ve spoken on the phone and texted here and there so I’m familiar with her but not too much. Yet, it totally didn’t feel awkward at all when we hung out. I almost forgot we’d never met before that. Or at least, that’s how I felt. Who knows, Sarah might read this and just be like “speak for yourself” lol. She was introduced to me by my friend Hanna. Sarah goes to Princeton, she and Hanna know each other because of MSA stuff. But yeah, it also was cool to know I now have friends outside of Penn who I didn’t get to know because of a Malaysian connection, you know what I mean? It feels like I’ve grown roots! And I’m super proud of that.

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I am so thankful for such an eventful couple of days, even if it was slightly beyond my comfort zone. Even if it meant that I had super crappy sleep because I had to use my jacket as both my pillow and blanket last night (because Hannah told me she didn’t have spares and yet I didn’t want to carry a sleeping bag with me around the whole day). From my picture with Alex and Nazanin, visiting WNYC/meeting Sarah to just reading my book on the Subway… I know it wouldn’t have been possible as a freshman (even though when I was a freshman, I expected my life to be like this immediately). It wouldn’t have been possible if I had never come to Penn, etc etc. There is a string of infinite things to be grateful for.

When your week starts out strong…

I usually wait until the end of the week to blog but when your week starts out so strong, sometimes you just can’t resist pulling up that blank page on a Monday night.

Ken, Hui Jie and I are in Astronomy together which is kinda fun and kinda not. It’s not fun because I find phases of the moon super difficult to visualise and understand. It’s fun because I get to go through it with my friends—classes are always more fun with friends. Ken got a basketball, some chopsticks and a lamp to act as a makeshift solar system model (basketball was the earth, chopsticks were the earth’s axis and the lamp was the sun). We did our homework. It wasn’t easy. We had to explain why the U.S. experiences winter when Australia is going through summer and had to resist the temptation to say “BECAUSE IT JUST IS?!?!?”. It’s funny how you sometimes can’t explain the things you’ve taken for granted.

They ate some of the ricotta pancakes I made. It feels nice to have people eat the food I make. We sang along to The Last Five Years (one of my fav movies of all time) and dissected Jamie and Cathy’s relationship experiences for parts we found relatable so that was fun. It reminded me of lazy Sunday evenings in my aunty’s living room in Klang with my cousins. I guess these people are kind of like my family now.

Speaking of family, my friends Lisa and Nate are currently in Malaysia as Fulbright Scholars and they’ve both hung out with my family recently. That just makes me so happy and I can’t quite explain why? I like that Lisa and Nate are getting a little taste of my life back home just as I’ve somewhat had a feel for their lives here. I like that my friends are spending time with my parents/aunt. I just like it, it gives me good vibes all around. I hope they’re having a good time and are enjoying my homeland hehe.

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Lisa with my Mak Long in Kuching

Anyway. I had a really good day today as well. I woke up early to go for Professor Pollack’s International Political Economy lecture. I’ve already taken IPE with him so I know it seems strange that I’m attending his classes again but I honestly don’t think I can get bored listening to him explain about Bretton Woods and the Gold Standard and the shift towards Keynesian economics. It feels like re-watching your favourite movie, you know? I can’t wait for the part where he talks about Dispute Settlement in the WTO and the Asian Financial Crisis!!!

After class, I did some reading (still reading The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr) and then Hui Jie and I went to the city for Restaurant Week. Restaurant Week is basically when restaurants offer a selected range of items from their menu for a fixed (cheaper) price so people usually go to try places they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford. Our birthdays are less than a month apart and since we both weren’t together for our birthdays, I liked today because this was kind like our belated pseudo-celebration. The weather was horrid today and I usually hate getting wet socks on rainy days but I had such a nice time that I didn’t mind.

Best tiramisu ever.

I just got back from Jamie’s. She was telling me about her New York trip while I did some work. I really wanna take a moment here to express how much I appreciate this girl. People always credit their friends for being good listeners but I love Jamie for coming to me to tell me about things, whether it’s the trivial stuff like finding a Chobani Cafe or a sale she’s excited about to the more serious ones that she trusts me with. It means so, so much to me.

Jamie at her desk.

It was the best Monday to have after a great weekend. I went for a morning run, cooked shakshuka, got a white chocolate peppermint drink and binge-watched series 1 of The Missing (watch the trailer!). It was so good. Zoe and Alfie (the vloggers, haha, my guiltiest pleasure) kept recommending it and when I saw that they only had 8 episodes I was like, “eh why not?” and oh my god it was so intense but so riveting. I saw a review that described it as “watching an insect slowly suffocate in a jar” though so maybe it’s not for everyone lol. But I think they say that because the shots are beautiful but the plot line is, again, intense and also emotionally taxing (it’s a show about a missing child, after all).

And while we’re on the note of pop culture/media stuff, might I recommend a few podcast episodes. On the Media, a podcast about media (like how the media covers/does not cover issues, how people react to media etc) ran a series called “Busted: The Poverty Myths” where they explore how poverty has been treated in the media, myths about poverty, and etc. It is just super informative and humanising—I highly recommend it. I also have been following The Truth for a while, but have only recently listened to their episodes. I listened to the one called “Dark End of the Mall” and it honestly blew my mind in a way I didn’t know audio shows could. They’re a fiction show, and their episodes are not serialised so you can listen to any one of them. I’ve only heard a few but I feel like “Dark End of the Mall” stood out as being above the rest. I also love Planet Money and this past week I’ve listened to “Jubilee! (?)” (Iceland “forgiving debts” of some of their citizens), “The Kansas Experiment” (aftermath of a Kansas senator dramatically lowering taxes) and “Don’t Believe the Hype” (about why people hate the Dow). I think some/all of these were reruns of old episodes but Planet Money is full of gold episodes so it’s always worth a listen.

Ok I thought I was going to write about some of the cooking recipes I’ve played with this past week but I’ve gone overboard with this post once again—maybe I should just dedicate a whole new category for weekly cooking posts lol. I just don’t think I’d be able to keep up with that! I don’t know. Maybe I’ll try it out soon.

Until next time ❤

A string of good days

I’ve had a good, pretty fun first week back. First of all, my classes seem pretty chill this semester compared to what I had last semester. Or at least, they seem that way for now. I have my Psychology Independent Research, which is a continuation of last semester’s work at a psycholinguistics research lab. I also have a Judgement and Decisions lecture; I was adamant about not taking another psychology seminar this semester. For anyone who isn’t familiar: lectures are huge classes and you don’t participate very much, but seminars tend to be about 10-15 people and the whole thing is discussion based. Seminars last semester were just too much work—like 100 pages of readings per class per week—and I never had time to do anything else if I wanted to get those done and get them done well. Apparently the professor for the lecture I’m in now is super chill; he lets us take open book exams and I’m all for a relaxed final semester academically so YES.

I also have to spend 3 hours a week in an intro Psychology lecture because I’m TA-ing for the class. It’s now my third semester sitting in PSYC 001 lectures! It’s particularly interesting this semester though, because this Spring, it’s being taught by Professor Connolly, who I took intro with in my first semester at Penn so there’s a nice little “comes full circle” thing going on.

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Apart from Psychology courses, I’m also taking an intro Astronomy class which is like…. fine, whatever, I just need to take one science class to graduate so I’ll do it. I also have a creative writing class that I’m taking for fun that didn’t seem particularly fun last week so I might not stick with it but that’s yet to be determined. Hmm. I do want to practice my writing, but how much of that has to be done in a class setting? Especially if the class kind of… annoys me.

I am particularly excited about Penn Perspectives, though. It’s a lecture series for seniors, and in our applications, we stated who our favourite professors were (mine was Professor Pollack, obviously) and which professors we’ve always wanted to take classes with but never got to. Based on that, they invited a different professor to give us a lecture each week—no homework or anything, just attending lectures for the sake of learning. Our first lecture was by an accomplished psych professor, Paul Rozin. Interestingly, I’ve had one lecture by him each year at Penn haha.

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First lecture with Dr Rozin feat. guy blocking my view.

But anyway, this week was so nice for, *deep breaths* so. many. reasons. Primarily, my beloved Hui Jie is back from Copenhagen!!! She doesn’t live across the hall from me anymore but better two blocks over than across the freakin’ Atlantic. We had our favourite takeout together on Wednesday night, class + lunch together on Thursday and she came over today to hang out with me. I got to give her the birthday present I got for her in London and we shared pictures from our trips while we sat on my living room couch and it was just really nice to see her again. The last time I saw her was in July when I visited her in Singapore, which was just too long ago.

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HJ and me with our matching gummy smiles, striped shirts and fried rice ❤
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She’s back to sleeping on me.
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Unwrapping her present 😀

In general, I just really liked seeing all my friends again this week. May May and I made a trip to Trader Joe’s together and caught up on our winter breaks. I cooked dinner for Kim on Monday. Jamie and I had ice cream together late night on her bedroom floor. Shi Yi gave me amazing hot chocolate and hung out at my place playing Rubik’s cubes with me and Shahirah. Oliver got me biscottis from Flour Bakery in Boston on his birthday. Excuse me for being cheesy, but I will never take for granted the love I feel just having these people around me.

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I made sweet sour fish and stir fried vegetables for dinner, which Kim and Jamie loved (or at least, said they loved lol)—it made me so happy.
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Continuing with my kale chips obsession. I’ve gotten Jamie and Kim onto this kale chips bandwagon with me. Kim got me my GTL from Starbucks!
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Kim, Shiyi and Jamie ❤

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It’s also a really exciting time at the cinemas right now, isn’t it?! In the past week, I watched La La Land with Shahirah and Hidden Figures with Ken and Selina. I loved them both so much for very different reasons.

La La Land was beautiful. I was so taken by the cinematography and the creative uses of sound, if that makes sense? The composition of each shot, the colours, the outfits… Every single scene was truly a sight to behold. I also just love a good I-want-to-follow-my-dreams story, so when you toss in the fact that it’s a musical with large dance numbers and a somewhat complex love story, it’s basically a formula for Dayana’s Perfect Movie. It just lifts your spirits. My sister Julia and I have pretty much been hooked on the soundtrack for days. I think the main reason I loved it though, was… hm, how do I say this without spoiling the movie? I think it represents the way my memory works, and the way I think about things in my own past. Yeah. That’s it.

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La La Land was only showing at Ritz East and a trip to Old City is not complete without a quick stop at Franklin Fountain. This parmesan ice cream was amazing.

Hidden Figures was also fantastic, I highly recommend it. I think Hidden Figures is probably more appealing to a wider audience than La La Land was because I can imagine how some people would watch the latter and just be like “that’s it?” but the former is more exciting plot wise. It’s definitely my favourite ~space movie~ (let’s not talk about Interstellar, gah, I hate that one). I mean, it obviously wasn’t just about space. It deals with the deep intersections of race, class and gender in the workplace, within our families and in our greater societies. The events of the film take place during the segregation and I remember thinking, I thought I knew how segregation was bad but every time you see it being played out you gain a deeper appreciation for how atrocious it really was and for me, it affirmed my faith in art as a means for building empathy while also entertaining. Even though Hidden Figures revolved around a huge things like space mission and racism, it still manages this lightheartedness because it makes you laugh and I greatly appreciated the balance of seriousness/lightness.

I’ve also been doing a lot of cooking experimentations which is really fun! I always enjoy cooking because I feel like it’s a creative, healthy way to practice taking care of yourself. This past week, I’ve mostly experimented with breakfast foods. I just am such a huge fan of brunch that I always find myself tempted to make those kinds of foods. I cut open a ripe avocado for the first time this past week and I’ve been enjoying having avocado with my eggs for breakfast. I also made smoothies and rosti which were so good. I’ll probably detail all of that in a separate post because this is already getting pretty lengthy, haha.

Until then, thanks for reading 🙂

My baked vegetable obsession

Ever since Thanksgiving, I’ve been obsessed with baked vegetables. My friends Ece and Sofia made ~friendsgiving~ dinner for a bunch of us that weekend. Their spread included the most perfectly seasoned baked brussels sprouts, squash and etc. It’s just so easy to make and I’m not sure if it’s healthy but what’s more important is that it feels healthy right? Haha.

I’m no chef, but I’ve made baked vegetables of different sorts a few times now, with different combinations of ingredients and I’m still in love every single time I make it. First, I made red potatoes, broccoli, red onions and some leftover peppers I had from sweet and sour fish. I chose red potatoes because I feel like they’re tastier? Also, potato skins are amazing. You probably already know this but you shouldn’t peel the skins off, they make the potatoes taste better.

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All you have to do is chop up the vegetables, put them in a bowl, drizzle some olive oil over it, sprinkle some seasoning on top (I used salt, black + white pepper and my fav paprika), add fresh rosemary and thyme then mix it with your hands (just because it’s funner that way). It’s so unbelievably easy and IT TASTES BETTER THAN IT LOOKS, I SWEAR.

The next time, I made broccoli and onions because I felt that the potatoes—even though they were the most delicious—were a bit too heavy. I added some tomatoes instead. Same procedure, and voilà.

In all honesty, I would have liked the tomatoes to be a little more charred but I guess I don’t know how to do that/should have kept them in longer? (lmk if you know. I can already imagine that my mom will respond to this with a report of a thorough Google search haha)

The evening before I left for break, I needed to use up one last sorry potato so I made baked potatoes but I was out of fresh rosemary so I used dried rosemary and it was good but it just wasn’t the same. The flavour wasn’t as strong and most importantly, it didn’t make my whole apartment smell of rosemary. BUT. I love potatoes in all forms. So it was still good.

Today, I made kale chips! I have always loved kale, especially with quinoa and Sweetgreen’s spicy cashew dressing, ugh, so good. But yeah, I always knew people sold kale chips and I know they’re pretty easy to make, I just never made them. Then over break, my friend Qamarina and I had dinner together and we shared a small kale salad and she said she loves baked kale chips and told me how to make them. So when I got back to Penn, I knew that would be one of the first things I’d make.

It’s the same concept: drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and paprika and bake for 20 mins. I actually thought it would be more complicated than this but it wasn’t. I don’t quite love the smell of kale in my apartment but the kale chips themselves tasted amazing and I’m still munching on them as I write this.

Downside of kale chips: you have to floss before you speak to anyone after. Hahaha. I ate them for lunch and then was 5 mins late to a meeting because I didn’t budget enough time for flossing. I did a quick mirror check before going out and was horrified lol. Crisis averted.

Anyway. I can’t believe I made a whole post on my baked vegetable endeavors. But I just can’t recommend them highly enough. GO MAKE THEM. AND FLOSS. BYE.