On Pleasure

When I was in college, I dated a guy who explained why we were together using the concept of utility matrices from economics. This wasn’t a reference to any money either of us had, but rather he used the idea of maximizing the utility matrix and applied it to maximizing personal pleasure. Now, as a romantic 20-something, this sounded horribly dry and unappealing to me, and that relationship… didn’t last. But I suppose I owe him an apology because as I grow older, I somewhat understand what he meant.

Rather than seeing it as a dispassionate calculation, I realize that happiness and pleasure are in fact a balance of different options. And as I progress in my life, pleasure is one of the things that I strive to maximize. But what brings me pleasure and what brings others pleasure are going to be different. That balance and optimization are going to be different for everyone.

On its basest level, pleasure is the avoidance of discomfort. And on the base of my understanding of pleasure comes the experiences I’ve had that convince me that certain things, though I may enjoy them in the moment, will ultimately have displeasure that outweighs their pleasure. Coffee is one of those things. As I get older, my body increasingly shows its displeasure at being given coffee. So even though I actually adore the taste and experience of coffee, I’ve started largely limiting myself to enjoying the aroma when my spouse makes his morning cup.

On the flip side of that, sometimes something that seems unpleasant can yield more pleasure than the initial unpleasantness. Waking at 5:30 a.m. and exercising it not many people’s idea of a good time, but the endorphins from the exercise and the delicious experience of the still quiet of the early morning brings me more pleasure than lying in bed until noon ever did (with a few exceptions ;)). And I always choose exercise that I enjoy, so it’s not an ordeal to get through to get to the afterglow. By the time I have my workout clothes on and push the button to start my video, I’m excited, I’m anticipating the joy of this ritual.

But beyond the trade-off pleasures that I have, my routines are also maximized to deliver things that I solely enjoy. Like my morning croissant. The full sensory experience of my tea practice, calling on all of my senses to fully immerse myself in a practice of pleasure each day. The bright swipe of lipstick or the feel of my favorite skin care against my skin. Feeling the grass between my toes as I enjoy my yard or tend to the garden. The smell and flavor of fresh herbs.

The primary reason I do most of what I do is for pleasure. Yes, I still work, but I try to find the joy in it. And if you were to ask me why I do anything “unnecessary” in my life, the answer would be the same: for pleasure. There is no aspect of my personal hobbies that are done for anything other than the enjoyment they bring. While my historical studies of tea have taught me that medicinal qualities of teas have their place in tea culture, I drink tea because I enjoy it. It’s one of the reasons I can be so selective about the teas I accept as samples anymore, because it’s not worth it to me to drink a tea I don’t enjoy simply to build a brand relationship. I’d rather build a relationship with those whose teas I enjoy, even if they never decide to send me anything for free.

But that is my personal idea of pleasure. Everyone’s idea of pleasure and enjoyment will be different. In the same way that some people like bananas and I do not, some people enjoy being able to turn their passion for tea into a career by cultivating wide business networks. Or their passion for beauty, for skincare, for fashion. And that is their pleasure.

I think my favorite saying is “Don’t yuck someone’s yum.” It is a reminder to let people enjoy what they enjoy, whether it’s a 50-year-old, well-stored sheng puer from your favorite mountain, or a perfect red lip.

The Virus Diaries: Weeks Four and Five


You may have noticed I missed posting an update last week. Well, we’re all doing fine over here, health-wise, but I have noticed my mental health slipping a bit. Basically, I’m finding it hard to come up with the motivation to stick to a schedule with things, so I save most of my energy to meet deadlines at work and then tend to run out of extra energy to spend on my hobbies as the week wears on. But I’m back this week!

How is everyone doing in lockdown/quarantine/isolation? We’re starting to get a little stir-crazy. We dread the rainy days because going outside with Elliot is a necessary part of our routine. And we’re certainly settling into a routine of sorts. We’ve managed to grocery shop about every week and a half, although I have some ideas to help stretch that. I got my ten pounds of rye flour and five pounds of cornmeal from a local farm and I’m looking forward to ordering wheat flour and rolled oats once I work through my current stock. I’m definitely feeling a little bit “Little House on the Prairie” with my food preparation efforts. Last time Dan went to the store, they were out of a lot of things, such as most types of frozen veg, so I think next time we shop, we’ll try freezing our own fresh veg. And I’ve decided to start a victory garden in two large planters in our garden.

We shall see how that goes. I’ve also been eyeing the weeds for potential fresh veg sources. I know we have a nice crop of chickweed growing in our yard, as well as the ubiquitous dandelions. And I think there’s a patch of mugwort, but I need to do a bit more research to make sure I’ve properly identified it before I do anything with it. Plus, I’ve been trying to regrow some scallions that I used just the greens from for scallion pancakes. My mental state is much better on weeks when I can make scallion pancakes.

I do miss takeout. Sadly, because of my underlying condition, we’ve opted to avoid delivery and make all of our own food at home, plus my favorite Sichuan place isn’t delivering out to us right now anyway. Perhaps we’ll crack on that in the coming months, but it’s been over a month since we’ve had anything but home-cooked food (although we do rely on some frozen convenience foods for lunches, since Dan usually has to make that while watching Elliot).

I’ve been making a lot of bread and I continue to experiment with ratios of rye to wheat flour in my no-knead bread for the best combination of flavor and texture. And we have plenty of homemade broth, plus an extra chicken carcass in the freezer and a whole chicken to cook this week so I will be able to make more easily. Soups with dried lentils are a great lunch option when I make lunch since I can toss broth and lentils in a pot and just let them simmer until we’re ready to eat. Along with some homemade bread, it’s a fantastic lunch. Although, I have made more than one joke about how we’re slowly turning into medieval peasants.

The past two weeks, I’ve also gotten back into sewing and embroidery. I decided to make cloth masks for myself and Dan. Dan’s was the most important because he goes out to the store, but I figured I should have one for if I ever venture out of our yard, if only to normalize the wearing of masks. I hand-sewed them, and made one extra for my mother (although it was really the first one I made that turned out a bit too small for Dan’s face because of his beard). And then I decided to do something fun, so I pulled out my scraps from the sewing basket and started looking for inspiration for an embroidery project. I’m currently using a golden brocade silk to make a gothic embroidered pillow, inspired by the story “The Yellow Wallpaper.” The pattern and color of the fabric reminded me of the story, so I chose to embroider on a black hellebore because it’s poisonous and sinister, but also has folk uses as a treatment for insanity. And then a friend suggested pairing it with some hemlock leaves as an accent. Once I have the embroidery finished, I think I’ll sew it up into a small cushion, although I don’t rightly know what I can use to stuff it right now, but perhaps I shall just have to wait to completely finish it until later.

In the realm of things I shall have to remember to finish later, while planning my project, I originally wanted to do a beetle embroidery, and I bought the most beautiful embroidery pattern, but ended up unable to transfer it to my fabric, so I think I shall wait until I can go out and get transfer supplies to do it right. It’s frustrating to be limited to what I can find in the house, but also a boon to creativity in a way. I’m hoping to have the same flash of inspiration that I had when I came up with the hellebore motif when I put together my container garden since I’m once again limited to what we already have on hand (plus, hopefully, some seeds, either purchased or harvested from some local produce).

As far as mental state goes, I wanted to make a bit of a confession: I think the lockdown is triggering my disordered eating a bit. I’ve noticed myself skipping meals and snacks and realized I’ve been eating much less than usual, not because I want to lose weight, but because I’m worried about running out of food. Some mornings, my only food until lunch is a cup of masala chai, like the one in the photo. Even though we have a fully stocked pantry and our stores have not shown signs of being dangerously empty of food, I am worried. I hope that the garden will help alleviate some of that, but simply putting words to it is helping me think a bit more rationally and eat what I need. It helps that Dan has also noticed, if only because I am unpleasant to be around when I’m hungry, and has been reminding me to eat something. But I imagine these are feelings that are coming up with a fair number of people around the world at this time, and I hope that hearing about it helps people not feel like they’re being silly or weird. Hopefully we all keep our pantries stocked and our bellies full.

I think I shall end here. It’s been an interesting couple of weeks and an even more interesting month. I hope my readers are all doing well! Perhaps next week I’ll come up with a more structured post to try to encourage me to post. Perhaps something like “things that have gotten me through lockdown” or some such.

On Wedding Brain and Bridal Solidarity

Last week, I made more progress towards planning my wedding. I met with our caterer and his assistants at our venue and went through the logistics. And we got our license (less than six months away!). It was exciting to see things start coming together, and it gave me an excuse to take an entire day off work and think about nothing but wedding, which is important for a bride planning an event.

Then, I also learned that a coworker had gotten engaged, so of course, I went by her desk to congratulate her. But I also offered her the support of a sympathetic ear if she ever wants to obsess about wedding planning and it seems like everyone else around her is sick of it. Because this struggle is real.

I really never thought I would be *that* bride, the one who was obsessed with swatches and decorations and everything. But here we are. I’ve even planned a wedding before, but it was a much smaller event and took place rather quickly (four months from proposal to wedding). Plus, I was in school at the time, so I didn’t have as much mental free energy to waste.

This time around, I have all the mental energy to waste on it. And I’m planning a more elaborate event. And, of course, second-guessing every choice I make. For example: I recently decided what would actually be my “dream” wedding and it’s pretty far from what we’re planning.

My Dream: We wake up in the morning, put on nice clothes, and drive out to a little vintage chapel near our house, where we can have a simple, humanist ceremony, with whoever is up to join us. Then, we come back to the house and host a big luncheon/open house for friends and family, mostly in our back yard, with the option of squeezing inside if it rains. Simple, classic, and very old-fashioned.

Instead: The only concrete input Fiancé has given in terms of what he wants (it’s his first marriage) is that he wants to have a dance party for his friends. So dancing is a must. Given that, we have to rent a hall. And, honestly, we first met and became close going to dance lessons together, so it makes sense. We dance at everyone else’s weddings; of course we’re going to dance at our own.

So there I go again. Before I devolve into discussing caterers and music equipment, I’m going to stop myself. Wedding brain is real. It occupies prime mental real estate. And I know I’ve annoyed even the most wedding-obsessed of my non-planning friends.

So I’ve extended the branch of wedding brain acceptance to another woman going through it, in the hope that we can support each other. Forming a grand sisterhood of the wedding brain. And isn’t that what support is all about?

On Taking a Break, Remembering One’s Mortality, and Finding Simple Joy

What an ominous title, I know. But I’ve had a bit of an ominous weekend and I thought I’d talk about it. It has been a long time since I’ve posted here, and this was not the post I was planning for my triumphant return. In fact, I’ll be posting about travel beauty products later. But then this came up.

This weekend, I spent Sunday morning at the Urgent Care center because I thought there was something wrong with my heart.


Spoiler: there is nothing wrong with my heart.

Anyway, starting about a week ago, I was trying to fall asleep and I felt what I can only describe as a kind of flutter-thud in my chest. My heartbeat felt weird. Like it was skipping every fifth beat. I tried taking my pulse with a heart rate app I have, as well as by feeling my neck, and I had Boyfriend try to take it independently. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that my chest felt… wrong. Now, I know I have anxiety, and I know I have a family history of anxiety sending people to the ER. I also know I have no family history of heart disease. So intellectually, I knew that I was almost certainly not having a heart attack. So I didn’t let Boyfriend drive me to the ER that night. But then the next night it happened. And the next night. When I noticed it during the day the next day, I decided I needed to do something. I called up and got a next-day appointment. And tried to relax until it was time to go.

That night, I really wondered if I’d done the right thing by not insisting on going in right away. What would happen if I’d been wrong and my heart stopped the night before I was supposed to see the doctor. Now, Boyfriend had a big event coming up, so I didn’t want to worry him as much as possible, so I stewed in silence. And I didn’t really sleep.

Sunday, we woke up, showered, and went for our standard Sunday morning coffee date, though I stuck to herbal tea. And then to the doctor. The actual visit was relatively mundane, although perhaps I was forcing myself to see it as mundane to prevent myself from freaking out. Fewer than five minutes after I checked in, I was called in to get an ECG. I made a Matrix joke as they hooked up all the electrodes. Then, I was shown to a bed. Not the waiting room. Not a chair in an exam room. But a bed in a private, curtained room. That was a bit weird. I gave samples of practically all my fluids, and talked to the doctor, who listened to my heart and chatted a bit about what they were up to. Basically ruling out the big stuff so that I could go home with peace of mind. Then I got a gown and a chest X-ray. Then, back to my bed until they looked at all the tests. I joked around and texted hospital gown selfies to Boyfriend, who was still in the waiting room, and messaged with a friend of mine who had dealt with something similar. And then the doctor came in and told me that everything looked clear except a couple of non-time-critical tests that took longer to process. I was free to go once they removed my IV.

And then it was over. I was free. Clean bill of health, nothing immediately wrong. I almost instantly felt better, just knowing that I was okay. Of course, they hadn’t actually done anything, but I had already suspected this was mostly due to nerves.

But then, every time I looked down at my arm, I saw the bruising from the IV. And I would keep getting email alerts of new test results (all negative). And I realized that it wasn’t all mundane and casual.

I woke up the next morning and walked around the lake and looked around me and realized just how much I was looking at the world just a bit differently. Even though I’m still young, it was one of my first real reminders of my own mortality in a long time, and it was poignant, if not serious. And really, the only thing I could think to do was to sit down and write a little bit about it, because I haven’t really fully processed it yet.

Pursuing Less But Not Little

As I’ve mentioned previously, throughout my life, I’ve flirted with the idea of minimalism. I like the idea of a simple life with only a few possessions. When I travel, I take what will fit in a small bag. On a day-to-day basis, I stick to a capsule wardrobe that is practically a uniform, with makeup that requires only 4 or 5 items.

But I am not a minimalist. I will never again be the kind of person who tries to limit her possessions to an arbitrary number. Perhaps that seems a bit like a woman who believes in equality but says she’s not a feminist. But I truly believe I don’t belong among the ranks of true minimalists, who eschew accumulation of any kind (except perhaps snow).

Because I don’t count or trim. I clear out what needs clearing, but I enjoy receiving and buying when I need it. I may have 5 dresses, 5 cardigans, and a single pair of shoes that I wear to work almost every day, but I have a proliferation of scarves that I refuse to curate. I have jewelry that I receive as gifts or buy as it strikes me. I have probably a dozen red lipsticks because I still haven’t found The One (I think I’m close). And I still have little bits and bobs that I use to decorate.

But I avoid unnecessary indulgence. I live my life with less than I could. It started when I got my first job after graduate school. At a time when I was living in a room in a shared house, scraping together what I could to pay the bills while going through a divorce, all of a sudden, I found myself making much more money than I was used to. But I was still living like a poor student. And instead of going out and blowing all that money, getting a luxury apartment, and filling the space my new salary afforded me, I stepped back. I examined my finances, indulged in a few things, like a private, one-bedroom apartment, and some furniture (not enough, my family told me), and then put the rest into savings.

Less than one year after getting my new job, I crashed my car. I went three months without a car of my own, relying on carpooling, my bicycle, and public transportation, while I saved most of each paycheck. Then, I bought a car, paying upfront. And by the time I was two years out of graduate school, I had paid off my student loans from college. I was debt free fully eight years before I thought I would be.

But I still live in a house where I get one room entirely to myself, other than the bedroom I share with Boyfriend. We certainly have more space than we strictly need, and we could live more frugally without too much sacrifice. But the extra cost of a house with a yard is worth it when the weather is beautiful and I can plant herbs in the ground instead of in pots.

It is a quiet sort of cutting back, and one that rarely gets touted on blogs or websites, I think, but I think it’s worth sharing how I was a minimalist, but I’m not really anymore. And that’s okay. It’s peaceful to live my life in a sort of moderate minimalism, having neither an excess, nor a paucity.

A Whirlwind of Busy

It’s been a busy few weeks, as one can probably tell from the lack of posting at this space. I have lots of ideas for posts, but I just can’t seem to find the time to sit down and put them together. Also, many of the posts I have in mind involve pictures that I either haven’t taken, or haven’t processed on my computer to load in. It’s a rough life, right?

But in the meantime, I keep busy. Very busy. Auditions for fall shows are starting up, so that uses a lot of my free mental energy. And now I have this house that needs to be cleaned and rearranged and decorated. And cleaned. It turns out that we have an infestation of click beetles, if half a dozen can be called an infestation. I consider it so because I stepped on one this morning while making my morning smoothie and it clicked under my toes and upset me. The worst part is that the specific intermittent clicking mimics either standard house noises or sounds a little like someone walking downstairs and occasionally making the floors creak. So for the last few nights I’ve sworn I’ve heard someone downstairs even though no one is there. I suppose it’s nice to know there’s an actual sound I’ve been hearing, but on the other hand, it’s a bug. So not so nice.

So this weekend will likely be a big cleaning weekend, at least on Saturday. If I haven’t collapsed from the combination of meeting work deadlines, auditioning, and traveling for work. But it needs to be done. And then Sunday, we’re going to visit Boyfriend’s parents’ new property and getting lunch with them. It sounds like they have a lot of land around the house they’re building so it should be fun. And, of course, I will need to grab some quiet moments for a cup of tea.

And that’s really what it’s been. I’ve had some time to myself to sit and be quiet, but I haven’t felt like doing anything concrete with the time. I’ve watched some Netflix, and even started crocheting again since I now have a living room that actually gets air conditioning. I’m working on a project I started ages ago with wool I bought two years ago, but it’s going to be beautiful when it’s done. And winding the yarn and crocheting is soothing, as long as my hands aren’t too sore from aerials!

I’ve been less invested in exercising this week. I’ve had to be in to work early, so I haven’t had the time or energy for an early-morning run. And my shoulder has started hurting, either from aerials or from toting a heavy laptop around, so I’m skipping one of my aerial arts classes this week. But the weather has been nice and I’ve been trying to get out and enjoy the sunshine and walk around. I’ve seen some plays that friends of mine are involved in, and going to theater always involves walking from the subway station to the quirky little neighborhoods where these things happen.

I’ve also updated my skin care and beauty routines a bit. I’ve found my first “Holy Grail” product, I think, and come up with some new recipes to increase my arsenal of homemade products. But I’ll post about that in detail later rather than talk too much about it now. I promise, I’m going to take some time to take pictures and put together a few posts while I have the quiet evenings. Since I’m not acting, I really do have more free time. And yet, I still feel so busy all the time…

Long Walks and Getting Caught in the Rain

As part of my attempts to be healthier, I’ve started walking more often. It’s not fitness walking, but instead I try to take a few long strolls per week. On the weekends when it’s easy to lay around all day, sometimes in the middle of the work day to break things up, and lately I’ve been getting Boyfriend to go for a nice walk before dinner some evenings when he’s home early.

The other day was one of those days. He actually beat me home. For once, I was the one working the 10+ hour day and he got home early to start dinner for me. But I managed to get home early enough in the evening that we had some time before it was really time for dinner. The sky was mostly blue with a few big white piles of clouds, so I thought it would be nice end to the day or beginning of the evening.

I like taking walks with Boyfriend. I walk fast, so he slows me down a bit, and we talk a lot. It’s nice to have that reconnect, a reminder of why we’re together. Sometimes we talk about work or about the house, or about plans we want to make with friends. When I’m in a play, we’ll talk about that. This time, I vented a little about work, and then we planned a party we want to have soon.

As we turned the corner for the last leg of our walk, probably less than a quarter-mile from home, it started spitting rain at us. Since we hadn’t heard any thunder, and could still see clear patches of sky, we figured we had a little time.

Five steps later, the sky opened on us. The rain fell in sheets of water, completely soaking us through. We decided to run for it, but it was longer than I thought it was, and I ended up tiring out. Plus, it was raining so hard that gasping for breath occasionally resulted in drowned sputtering. Boyfriend stayed with me while I panicked, worried that it was about to start lightning on us, and then went on ahead to open the house once it was in sight.

Once inside, we checked the parts of the house that leak to make sure nothing would be ruined, and then peeled off our soaking wet clothes. I was still in my wrap-front jersey dress and a pair of stockings from work. These went over the shower bar in one of our bathrooms, and we found clean towels and dry clothes. Then, I wrapped up in a blanket with a beer and a good book while Boyfriend cooked dinner. It was exciting, and ultimately a bit invigorating. And then we settled in for an uneventful evening.

Competing Forces

My life is a balance of the ebb and flow of my work life, personal life, and hobby life. It used to be that hobby life was a couple dance classes per week, and a quiet place to read or crochet. Or maybe watch some television (while I crochet). Then, theater entered my life and the balance became more delicate. Dance started to fall by the wayside. And the work/hobby balance got tougher. Personal life, which is my time with Boyfriend and my time spent doing personal necessities, became precious.

Work is a constant source of stress in my life these days. I never know what I’ll be doing in a month, six months, a year, so I worry a lot. And I find myself gravitating towards spending mental energy on my hobbies, rather than spending it on work. Work is tough, but not because the work is hard.

Hobby life is frustrating right now, but hopeful. I had a shock a couple weeks ago when I wasn’t cast in something I thought was a gimme. After that blew over, I found myself restless, wanting to get back on a stage or in front of a camera. So I applied for some film projects. I’ve gotten a response from one, and filming is fast approaching. After that, I have an audition for another period piece in about a month. After that, who knows?

I’m finding myself gazing wistfully at my crochet projects, but never quite finding the energy to pick one up. And I’m still trying to move more and eat healthier. Basically, I’m trying to better myself, professionally, physically, and emotionally, and it takes a lot of time and energy. Sadly, writing, which I suppose is a hobby that I most often neglect, has fallen out in the balance equation. So this space gets updated in fits and spurts. I have a few ideas for future posts that I haven’t yet gotten together. I need to post the lovely items I got from the Chronically Vintage Etsy store, but I never manage to take photos while the light is cooperating. But one of these days, I’ll go back to being a regular blogger and share my silly life with all of you.

Have a Cup of Tea

Hello, world. I do enjoy a nice cup of tea. I’ve decided to start this space where I can share my personal style, which is a mix of vintage, Anglophilia, and eclecticism. I’m rather bohemian.

I tend to start my day with a nice cup of tea. I continue my day with another cup of tea. I pick myself up in the afternoon and wind down in the evenings with still more tea. Tea is a large part of my way of life.

Today’s it’s quite cold out, and I need to zip my coat up against the wind and the occasional flurries of snow. The perfect day for a nice cup of tea.

I hope you’ll come back to see what I can do with this space. I hope to share my little bit of crafting, maybe some recipes, photos when I take walks, and just general musings over a cup of tea.