Garlic Butter Flounder Pasta with Portobello Mushrooms

The start of the spring semester meant that I needed to spend more time on my studies rather than on my blog. I still do quite a lot of writing since I’m taking English I this semester, but I haven’t been writing material for this blog. This past few months, my husband and I have been trying to make some good food using ingredients from different parts of the world: hoisin sauce from Vietnam, sambal from Indonesia and cellophane noodles from China. I felt that maybe I should write down recipes to the meals because they are my husband’s original recipe and they are really good! This recipe has 2 tablespoons of butter, but it serves 6-8 people. Also, butter can easily be substituted in this recipe. One thing I’d like to point out though is that this recipe is made special for a certain diet, so it doesn’t use any pepper or onions. Feel free to add both into yours.

lemongarlic2

Lemongarlic1

Serves 6 to 8 people

 

Flounder filets 5 slices

1 red bell pepper

Portobello mushrooms

4 cloves of garlic, minced

2 tbsp. of butter

2 tbsp. lemon juice

1/2 cup white wine

3 tbsp. fresh parsley

2 tbsp. fresh oregano
2 tbsp. of fresh thyme

2 tbsp. cornstarch diluted in 1/2 cup of chicken broth

 

1 1/2 package of spaghetti

 

Parmesan cheese
fresh parsley for garnish (optional)

 

  1. Heat olive oil on a skillet and sautee flounder. Once golden brown, take it out of the heat and chop into small bite size pieces. Set aside.
  2. Sautee garlic, mushroom and peppers in olive oil. Then add white wine, lemon juice, butter and all the herbs. Add the fish back into the skillet. Thicken the sauce by gradually adding the cornstarch diluted in chicken broth. Cook on medium heat until sauce thickens.
  3. In a pot, cook spaghetti for 6 to 7 minutes or until al dente. Once cooked, drain the spaghetti and put it back into the pot.
  4. Transfer the sauce into the pot and mix it in with the pasta. Mix in desired amount of parmesan cheese.
  5. Serve and garnish with parmesan and fresh parsley.

Resolutions

 

We will open the book. It’s pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s day. – Edith Lovejoy Pierce

There’s only one day left before the beginning of a new year. Change is welcomed by many, resulting in the making of new year’s resolutions which are often times broken or forgotten. That’s the normal chain of events during the first few months of the year. And that’s okay. Regardless of new year’s resolutions being broken, I still think that it’s a great idea to take this opportunity to possibly make good changes in our lives. I myself will be making some resolutions this new year. In the past I was terrible at keeping my resolutions, but as I grew older I got better at keeping them. Mostly, I’ve learned from trial and error. My experiences and encounters with others has also helped me gain some insight to help me stay on the right path.

  1. Be realistic about what you hope to accomplish

    One reason why most people haven’t met their new year’s resolution is because they fail to realize that they didn’t set their goals correctly. Challenging ourselves is a good thing, but if we bite more than we could chew all at once we may end up not following through. Lose 5 pounds in 5 weeks may be more feasible than lose 10 pounds in 5 weeks. Studies have suggested that when individuals were able to complete short-term goals they were more better equipped to fulfill long-term goals. However, if you set unrealistic goals, you’re setting yourself up for failure, which can either be discouraging or motivating. Most people will probably experience the former. Examine your capabilities and include your lifestyle into the equation when setting a timeframe in which you hope to accomplish that goal. Success in completing a short-term goal can boost your confidence, self-esteem and motivation.

  2. Plan ahead

    It’s good to know how the changes you’re going to make will fit into your lifestyle. This step is part of being realistic. Make a game plan on how you plan to attain your goals. For instance, if you want to lose a few pounds, consider joining a gym or trying out a new exercise program. If you have a hectic schedule then consider other options such as jogging every morning, taking a bike ride, or taking walks.  Planning ahead helps you get closer to achieving your goal as it gives you a better picture of how you’ll be able to do so.

  3. Keep track of your progress

    Keep a journal of your progress, such as a food diary or an exercise log. If you’re working on saving money, start a money diary to keep track of your spending habits. Technology has evolved in ways that enable us to keep track of our daily activities efficiently. Again, be realistic as to how much time you are able to dedicate to this task. Plan a time of the day when you hope to update your progress. If checking daily is difficult, then try updating once in two days or once a week.
    Being able to gauge your progress is encouraging. Keep in mind that change involves trial and error. The main objective is to be able to realize early on when you start to veer off of your path. The idea is to prevent yourself from falling into a downward spiral in which may be difficult to get out.

  4. Socialize

    Making changes in our lives is a challenge. It’s definitely easier to tackle such a taxing task with someone else. Going an endeavor with a friend or a relative gives you the support you need to make big changes in your life. Joining a self-help group will give you the support you need to keep on the right track. It will also provide a feeling of universality, that you’re not alone in this experience. Having a support group will possibly motivate you too further challenge yourself. Advances in technology has made it easier to connect to people in a different location but with a similar experience.

  5. Change your environment to change your behavior

    The first step to change is contemplation, followed by planning, doing something to achieve change and retaining the behavior that you’ve developed to accomplish it. Sometimes, the simple act of changing your perception is not enough. A shortcut that I’ve discovered is to change your surroundings to fit the behavior you hope to attain. For example, if you plan to restrict your daily caloric intake in order to lose weight, then try to change your surroundings. For instance, avoid having sweets or junk food in the house. If you’re in a position where that’s not possible, it’s best to keep the unhealthy foods hidden in a cupboard or drawer, and out of plain sight. If you must eat empty calories try to portion it out and don’t eat straight from the bag. For more tips on this, you can check out the book “Slim by Design: Mindless Solutions for Everyday Life” by food psychologist and behavioral economist Brian Wansink.
    In conclusion, changing our surroundings will better help us elicit behavior that’ll hopefully lead to keeping our resolutions/goals.
    When I decided to have a more active lifestyle, I planned to jog 3-4 times a week. The chronic pain I had in one leg made it difficult to jog consistently. I was also used to lounging around… a lot. I knew I had a problem, and I also had a pretty good excuse/obstacle. First, I picked to jog in the mornings because of the temperature. Then, I made it a habit of wearing my work out clothes so that I would be in the mindset of working out. I mixed up my routine by riding the bicycle sometimes instead of jogging. I also invested in good quality running shoes to protect my knees. I ended up running a minimum of 3 times a week for about 5 weeks or so.

  6. Reward yourself

    Rewarding yourself doesn’t translate to “indulge”. It means “add” something rather than take something away. I’ve learned that taking something away such as in the form of food restriction can produce the opposite effect of what we hope to gain. This leads to the feeling of deprivation, which leads to frustration and it could possibly strengthen cravings. It’s better to add fruits and other healthy snacks to your diet than to strictly reduce the amount of junk food or sweets in your diet. Start a new hobby. Maybe volunteer, join a self-help group, be part of a book club, etc. In other words, do something you enjoy, add something beneficial to your life. I’ve heard that developing new habits will help get rid of old habits.

  7. Reflect

    Finally, take time to reflect on the past. See it not as a time for remorse, but a time to celebrate what you’ve accomplished so far. Do this whether you’re at the starting line, in the middle or at the finish line. I’m an earnest perfectionist, a great pitfall which has lead me to start projects and then stop midway because I couldn’t face failure. I really haven’t learned how to deal with that yet, but I’m trying. I learned from my constant pursuit to upgrade my life that failure is normal, at times crucial, and absolutely okay. The key is to be able to face ourselves after we’ve failed. To get up no matter how many times we fall and keep going. I’ve realized that change is a journey not a destination. Accepting this reality has made me become more understanding and kinder to others and to myself.

    The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change – Carl Rogers

Have a fruitful journey!


Further reading:
Experience Psychology, Laura King
Slim by Design: Mindless Solutions for Everyday Life, Brian Wansink
Craving; Why We Can’t Seem to Get Enough, Omar Manejwala 

 

 

Insights from the KonMari Method

I stumbled across the KonMari method by browsing the Internet in hopes of finding advice that will aid me in my journey towards living a minimal lifestyle. Through Google searches, I found out that the KonMari method is developed by Marie Kondo, a Tokyo based cleaning/tidying consultant. She is also the author of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing”. Immediately, I went online to request the book from the school library.

The goal of tidying up is to rid your space of unnecessary items and keep only those that “spark joy”. This concept was very appealing to me because I have recently felt burdened by my possessions. The clutter in my room, specifically in my closet, made dressing-up in the morning a frustrating chore. Simply because I can’t tell what I own due to the way that things were arranged, or more truthfully, due to how messy my things were.

A little fact about myself: I’ve moved from the Philippines to Japan, and from Japan to the U.S. I know that I will move again in the near future, and so I plan to make the next big move go smoothly by simplifying my life through having less things

1.Discard before you organize

Like Marie Kondo in her early years, I’ve always thought that the way to solve my clutter problem was to organize my things efficiently. I now know that this was a mistake. The only way to reduce clutter is to own fewer things. And so I planned to do just that. Marie Kondo suggests starting with things that have less sentimental value, like clothes, first before going into items that possess sentimental values such as photographs. I started with my closet, because I felt that of all the things in my room, it was the one that gave me headaches the most.

The first step is to empty your closet completely and put all your clothes in one pile. Then, sort through the clothes by putting them into three categories: keep, donate and throw away.
The KonMari method suggests holding a piece of clothing with both hands to see whether it sparks joy or not. This came easy for me, though it was pretty hard to let go of things that I knew didn’t serve their purpose anymore but held sentimental value: Like the dress I wore when my family went to see the Sakura blossoms at Tsurumai Park. Ultimately, I was able to let go of those items, thanking them for giving me memories that I know I will cherish forever.
In the end, there were one or two items I kept that didn’t necessarily spark joy, but I held onto them anyway because I felt that I could make it work. What changed my mind was wearing the item, and realizing that I didn’t feel good in them. The KonMari method doesn’t advice you to wear the clothes to see whether you should keep them or not. However, one should keep in mind that tidying up to simplify your life is an ongoing process. It’s okay to miss an item or two, but when it hits you that you need to get rid of that object, you must do so right away. I believe that delaying that step can result in the accumulation of items that will only lead back to clutter.

2. Organize your clothes the right way

I’ve always been proud of how I folded my clothes. I mimicked the way clothes were folded in clothing stores and stacked them on top of each other. Marie Kondo says that this is not the way to fold clothes. The right way is to fold them in a way that they can stay upright. This can be achieved by finding the “sweet spot”. There aren’t any diagrams on the book that shows the proper way of folding clothes. Fortunately, the Internet has come to the rescue! I found Youtube videos and blog posts  with more videos that give instructions in detail. I developed my own methods as well. The key is to store things vertically instead of stacking them on top of each other. This way of storage makes it easier to see everything easier, thus contributing to efficiency and in my case, peace of mind.

The Breakdown

  • Clothes should be folded and stored vertically in drawers so that they are easy to see.
  • Clothes that are flowy, jackets, coats that should be hanged are put in hangers.
  • Clothes in hangers should be arranged so that they rise to the right (long items to the left, and they get shorter as you go closer to the right side of your closet).

3. Have a designated place for your items

One source of a major headache about to happen is not knowing where anything is placed. This becomes a huge problem when you’re in a situation in which you’re running late! I think most people have been in this state before, and I think we can all agree that it’s not a very pleasant one to be in. The KonMari method suggests designating a place for your things. Clothes should belong in the closet, not on top of the bed or a chair. All your bags should be kept in one location in your house instead of all over the place. I’ve followed this advice and organized things in my bedroom and bathroom. I’m so glad I did, and I’m not going back to how things used to be.

Since I don’t own a lot of items, this is a bit easier for me. I’ve put all my bags in the closet, hats on top of a bookshelf, all my accessories, make-up and toiletries go in one corner. It’s so much easier to navigate in the morning! No more pseudo-treasure hunts for me.

4. Keep your workspace and counters clean

Our bathroom sink used to be a mess. Contact solution on one side, next to is our toothbrushes, followed by contact lens containers, hand soap and face wash. This was the usual mess, though things seem to find their way on the bathroom sink adding to the mess and confusion. Marie Kondo says to keep all counters empty of objects. The best place to store those things are in drawers. I proceeded by emptying all the drawers and storage cabinets in my bathroom, then I threw out things that we don’t use anymore: used razors, old deodorant sticks, and so on. I realized that I had a ton on storage space, and that all I needed was to utilize them effectively. I also have two little flower girl basket that was used in my wedding which I now use as a storage for my husband’s items and my own. I place these baskets on top of the toilet bowl, which makes the items in them easy to access. Now, I only have out toothbrushes and hand soap on top of the bathroom sink.
I followed the same process when I tackled my workspace/study space. Empty all the drawers first, trash things that needs to be thrown away, and organize things vertically.

5. Clean by room not by category

On a final note, I just wanted to point out that the KonMari method says to clean by room not by category. I know that may sound confusing since I mentioned to start with clothes first, making it sound like we’re starting with a category. However, tidying up your clothes means translates to cleaning up your closet and maybe for some people, their bedroom.
By clearing a whole room, you’ll be able to see everything all at once which makes cleaning a breeze. I found that I was able to sort through my things easier and I was also able to use storage space much better this way. I used to clean by category myself, but it never seemed to work very well.

Tidbit:  Realize that it’s a process

Ultimately, there is no one right way to tidy up. KonMari’s methods in her book offers a fresh perspective that helped me declutter my life. Some people may want to do this in one go, while others may need to take their time. In my case it took me about a week. It was a couple of weeks before finals, and I think that I channeled all my nervous energy through tidying up. It truly made me relaxed and refreshed. I managed my time so that I’d still have study time while I was cleaning up around our place starting from one section to the next.
There are still areas that I need to improve on, and I actually haven’t gone through what I think is the most daunting task in this whole ordeal: photographs and memorabilia. I have come to realize that even though I was “done” with tidying up our room, the fight against clutter isn’t over. I’ll be starting school in a few weeks, and soon enough I’ll acquire a substantial amount of paper again. But that’s okay. I recommend doing a deep-cleaning once a month, and designate a light-cleaning day once a week. The process of decluttering is only a small step, and what matters is what you hope to accomplish through this. May it be a healthier lifestyle, a relaxing oasis from the chaos of the day and so on. Best of luck, and I hope that you learn to enjoy the process along the way!

Journey to a Minimal Lifestyle

Less is more.

Shopping was something of a pastime for me. When I was living in Japan, everything was in close proximity to each other because cities are built around trains. After school or work, I’d stop by the shopping district to window shop before heading home. Ten years of my life, represented by a stockpile of clothing in which some rarely saw the light of day. I realized that I had a problem, so I developed strategies to limit spending. For example, I only brought a certain amount of cash or I’d spend long hours in stores to delay buying anything. Both strategies worked pretty well but I never realized the real impact of accumulating things until recently.

I moved to the U.S. in December 2013. This forced me to bring only a fraction of my wardrobe. My collection of dresses shrunk from 30 to 10. I brought a handful of shoes and 4 bags. Unlike in Japan, shopping malls are farther away, and because I don’t drive, I can’t go whenever I wanted to go. This was a good thing because I shopped for clothes less. BUT, I compensated by shopping for other things. Soon enough my collection of things started to grow. When I worked at an arts and crafts store, I’ve accumulated things I bought from there: fabrics, supplies and sewing patterns.

Recently, I have come across the video “the Story of Stuff“. It was a little talk in school that I participated in for extra credit (yay!). I was shocked to learn how consumerism is potentially destroying our environment and creating unhappiness to others around the world. I felt guilty, and a little hopeless. Black Friday was just around the corner at that time. Although I have never been to a Black Friday sale before, I was tempted by the large amount of deals and coupons that came with the Sunday morning paper. I am guilty of clipping coupons I found on the paper and online. I did go shopping the days following Black Friday, because the deals were just too good to resist. Although in my defense, I shopped for things that were essential at the time and the items I bought weren’t even for myself. Regardless, I fell into the sale trap.

A little moment of weakness didn’t let me down. In fact, it made me more determined to lead a minimalistic lifestyle. As I was researching the Internet for tips and advice, I came across the Minimalists and the KonMari method. The Minimalists is a blog run by two friends from Ohio. They have essays which include tips, advice and concepts that paved the path towards minimalism for me. The KonMari method is developed by Marie Kondo, a cleaning consultant based in Tokyo. Her book,  “the Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing“, truly is life-changing.

Both of these sources have helped me develop a clear idea of what I hope to achieve through a minimal lifestyle.

  1. By spending less on things, I can save money to invest in experience.
  2. Less items means less decisions to make, which will hopefully give me more time to spend on living my life.
  3. Decluttering will help me discover what I like and it will help me cherish more the things that make me happy.
  4. I will feel good both physically and emotionally to come home to a clean, organized and simplified home.
  5. I hope to contribute in improving the environment by consuming less, donating often and recycling more.