Sunday, 28 February 2021

Good Reads/Podcasts/Videos: February 2021

Where Gratitude Gets You - Hidden Brain podcast

This episode highlights the link between gratitude and emotions - the practice of gratitude affects our emotions, which in turn influence how you react to a certain situation.

This episode blew my mind a little - there are tones of articles out there highlighting the importance and benefits of practising gratitude, but none of them caught my attention like this podcast. This podcast made me realise how our emotions play such a big role in our actions, and also affects our self-control.

emotions are a mechanism to help us navigate the future, not just an accounting system to tabulate the past, that might explain why some emotions seem to help us do difficult things

emotions set our expectations for how we should react in any given situation we're in. And so simply by making people feel grateful, it alters the way their brain assigns value 

I don’t want friends who put others at risk’: has lockdown wrecked friendships? - The Guardian

I resonated so much with this article. Admittedly, the pandemic has put a strain on me, in terms of my relationship with others, and also my personal wellbeing. I was rather distraught when I saw friends & family gathering during festivals/holidays on social media,  

As much as I want to see some of my friends and family, I feel that there is a huge risk that I don't want to bear, and it is really not the time. I do miss hanging out with friends, and I don't like how I've started to judge others based on what I see on social media.

How to Spot a Foolproof Recipe - Life Hacker

This is an extremely helpful especially if you have been cooking/baking a lot and searching for recipes online :D 

Cooking/Baking something new can be intimidating - because you're essentially trying out something new and you won't know the outcome until you try. I feel dejected whenever I try a new recipe I try out didn't work out - I've not just wasted money on ingredients, but also my time and effort :< 

My three main takeaway from this article:

1. Every oven is unique, and you may have to adjust your "baking time"

2. Pay attention to the bakeware used in recipe (is it a metal bakeware? Glass? Ceramic?) - different bakeware affects how your food gets cooked in the oven.

3. Pay attention to the ingredients used in recipe - are they of a particular brand? Try to stick to that brand, if possible. The benefit of these "mass produced" ingredients are that the taste from these "mass produced" ingredients are typically consistent! 

I use a dark-coloured baking tray - and hence I notice my baking time may be shorter than the baking time stated in most recipes as dark colour absorb heat faster

Here’s why you need to have more bad ideas - TED

Instead of saying, “I’m stuck, I can’t come up with anything good,” it’s far more effective to say, “I’ve finished this, and now I need to make it better.” Or possibly “I finished this, and it can’t be made better, but now I’m ready to do the new thing, because look at all I’ve learned.” 
This is the story of every human innovation.
This is the story of every good idea, every new project, every pop song, every novel. 
There was a bad idea. And then there was a better one. 
If you want to complain that you don’t have any good ideas, please show me all your bad ideas first.

This article really hit me - because I do find myself beating myself up for coming up with "bad ideas" - but wait, where are the bad ideas? First, you've got to come out with bad ideas, then make improvement on the "bad ideas". 

Often time, I stop myself from doing something because I think it'll be bad - but without even trying, without even coming out with something, how do I know it's bad? I'm not even giving myself a chance to work on it, to improve it, to make it good. 

We’re a community of critics and tweakers and tinkerers. The reason is simple: It’s safer. People rarely criticize the critic. And beyond that, it’s not that hard to use sandpaper. It’s a lot more difficult to use a bandsaw, or even to use a pencil to draw the plans in the first place.

No one is keeping you from posting your video.

No one is keeping you from blogging every day.

No one is keeping you from hanging your artwork.

The only way to get through the steps is to do the steps.

You Need to Practice Being Your Future Self - HBR

"Here’s the key: You need to spend time on the future even when there are more important things to do in the present and even when there is no immediately apparent return to your efforts. In other words — and this is the hard part — if you want to be productive, you need to spend time doing things that feel ridiculously unproductive.

A question I hear a lot is: What about all the things I actually need to get done? Don’t I need to get through my cluttered email box, my pressing conversations, my project plans in order to create space to focus on my future self?


That’s a trick your busy self plays on you to keep you away from the scary stuff you’re not yet good at and that isn’t yet productive. Sometimes you need to be irresponsible with your current challenges in order to make real progress on your future self. You have to let the present just sit there, untended. It’s not going away and will never end. That’s the nature of the present."

I have to admit - I fall into this trap a lot. In order to avoid feeling "uncomfortable" doing task that I deem unfamiliar, I'd keep myself busy with menial tasks - which might create a false sense of productivity, and worse, not growing in my role.

Even writing this blog post feels really uncomfortable - I want to be able to articulate what I've learnt & read in articles and hence I'm writing this blog post, although it is taking up a lot of time and I feel as though I am engulfed in insecurities  

Here's to venturing out to do more things that feels uncomfortable.

There are 3 different types of burnout — these are the signs to look out for - CNBC

According to the article, the three types of burnout are: 

1. Burnout by volume - triggered when you're constantly being booked, back-to-back, having almost no time to yourself

2. Burnout by boredom - triggered by the feeling of boredom at work, when you don't feel challenged or when you're feeling uninspired

Didn't know this could be a thing and upon reflecting, I realised I did feel tired and worn out before because I feel as though I have nothing much too

3. Burnout by socialisation - triggered when you put others ahead of your needs too often

This article gave me a light bulb moment - I've experienced burnout when I wasn't dead busy and I was wondering why I felt tired and uninspired, seems like I had a case of burnout by boredom there! 

28 Mini Rules That Have Drastically Simplified My Life - The Financial Diet

Love this piece! Espeically 

1. No emails before a certain time / No emails after a certain atime 

5. Schedule 15 minutes of alone time every day 

12. Ask yourself these two questions

When you’re making tough choices and deciding what to do in a certain situation, ask yourself…

- What would my future self in five years decide?

- What is the end goal I want from this?


13. Create a list of three priorities for every day (do this the night before)


24. Refuse to indulge in “I don’t know” or being “stuck”

Instead of allowing yourself to sit in “I don’t know,” switch to “I’m figuring it out.” At least this gives you momentum. Like Wayne Dyer says, “You are not stuck unless you decide to be.”

Certainly want to try out some of this mini rules! Thinking of writing a blog post about my own mini rules hmm.  


That's it for the month of February! See you in March :P 

Monday, 15 February 2021

My 21 for 2021 List

A couple of weeks back, I listened to Gretchen Rubin's Happier podcast, and she talked to her sister about their 21 for 2021 list

(Gretchen Rubin is the author of the book, The Happiness Project, where she challenged herself to monthly challenges in pursuit of happiness. You may read my review about it here!)

The 21 for 2021 is basically a list of things you want to do/achieve for the year 2021. Of course, it doesn't necessarily have to be 21. You can customise it however you want! It can be something fun, or about a goal you want to achieve. You can read more about it here :D 

I really liked the idea of having a list of things you want to do/achieve for the year. Yes, I have my goals for the year, but there are things I want to do/achieve that is...not so related to my goals, and are things that are purely just for fun! Also with the lockdown, it's helpful for me to have a list of things that I want to do to keep me on track, especially on days when I feel like a complete, meh. 

I thought writing this will be a breeze but it actually took me a full month to write this! I've been googling around for inspirations, and I'm pretty sure as time passes I might be adding on more to it. Some of the items on my list are linked directly to my goals for 2021, while some are purely for fun :D 


1. Save about 50% of my gross income 

Directly linked to my monthly goal of saving about 40-50% of my income per month. Hoping that it'll add up to 50% by the end of the year :D 

2. Start a side business / Have a side income stream

Again, directly linked to my 2021 goals :D Check out my Carousell page people ;) 


1. Run 120km cumulatively 

So far in January, I've run 10km. I track the total distance using Google Map tracking services. Not going to set anything too ambitious, especially because my knees have been, since my Kinabalu hike back in 2019. 


1. Cook different cuisine from at least 12 different countries!

Since we can't travel much this year, I figure that perhaps I can go on a culinary adventure through my own home kitchen. It's always interesting to learn about one's culture/country through their food.

So far, I've tried cooking Shaang Xi cuisine (China), Greek Gyros (Greece),  Shoyu Ramen (Japan), Dak-Galbi (Korea) and Beef Goulash (Hungary).

Would love to try making some Brazilian dessert and some Pao de Quejo, Sweedish desserts like the Toscakaka, Morrocan food like Tagine, more Japanese food like Udon, and also Indian food!

2. Revamp my little garden space 

I haven't been doing much with my little garden space, and I'm thinking of re-engineering it by having a few arranged hanging baskets with some pothos and purple hearts...and perhaps having a few more succulent gardens :) 

3. Start an edible garden

I have a lot of plants but they're mostly the low-maintenance ornamental plants. Why not start planting edibles and I can cook a garden-to-table meal? :D 

I've always been reluctant to start an edible garden because they're far more high maintenance. I've killed quite a few herb plants and hence my confidence is kinda low for starting an edible garden, but let's start small and easy. I'm thinking of planting okra/water spinach (aka kangkung) first since these are the somewhat "easier" and "lower maintenance" plant.  

4. Document my cooking/baking journeys through vlogs/video recording 

I've been cooking/baking a lot and why not take a step further in documenting? I tried making videos of it previously but stopped after the tripod I had....broke into pieces. I realised that video editing can be quite fun/therapeutic too! 

5. Blog more about cooking/baking/gardening!

Somehow I don't write about my cooking/baking/gardening adventure as much as my hiking adventures. Would like to write more about them :) Hoping to see at least one of each post by the end of 2021!

6. Hike somewhere I've never been before! 

Places I want to try out: Bukit Cherakah at Puncak Alam, several hills in Negeri Sembilan and Perak. Though this will largely depend on the state of the pandemic. 

7. Master the art of sourdough

i.e. by the end of the year 2021, I want to be able to confidently say that I can bake a beautiful loaf of sourdough bread :) 

8. Participate in hobby groups

ie Sourdough/Gardening group. I've joined these group on Facebook to learn more from others, but I've so far just been a rather silent member. Commenting on posts here and there very occasionally when I feel that I can contribute. I want to do more of it and share my knowledge as well as learn from others :) 

Personal Growth

1. Complete at least six online courses

So far I've completed two - The Science of Happiness & Learning How to Learn. I'm currently undertaking How to Manage a Remote Team by GitHub and Psychological First Aid by John Hopkins University. 

Note: I'm aiming for the shorter courses and not the full-blown digital degree courses! 

2. Read 12 Non-Fiction

I have an inclination to read fiction only. Fiction books to me are so much easier to follow and digest. I'd like to challenge myself to read at least 12 non-fiction books this year. 

So far my non-fiction book count for the :D 

3. Start bullet journaling and be consistent with it 

Surprise, surprise, I've just started bullet journaling. My, the pandemic has been pushing me to try out things I've never imagined that I'd do. 

I was overwhelmed with the...never-ending ways to start a bullet journal. I'll just try out some of the spread I feel would benefit me and add/remove/modify as time passes 

4. Update my LinkedIn Profile 

I'm a...'I'll update my LinkedIn profile when it's time' type of person. I know I should do it more often. But somehow...I'm still struggling with this - deciding what is worthy of sharing/updating on LinkedIn. This is definitely something that I should put more thoughts into this year. I probably need to set a concrete goal on this. My first step is probably to update my achievement on my online learning course! 


1. Re-organise my room/Have a room makeover 

Since I'm spending so much time in it, especially now during the lockdown. My room could need a face-lift! 

2. Go on a vacation somewhere secluded

Subject to the pandemic. Hoping to stay at one of the eco-resort in Penang Island or Cameron Highland when things cool down and it's safer to travel again. 

3. Be more consistent with 16 hours fast

This is something I do...on and off. Sometimes I complete the full fast, and sometimes I just feel...meh. I'll be honest I'm actually on the fence on whether or not to include this on my 21 for 2021 list. But since I've decided to put it on, now let's get down to business. 

4. Organise a live cook/bake-along!

Always want to try this out with friends :D 

5. Join a clothes swap

This is challenging because of the pandemic. I joined my first (& only) clothes swap early last year before the pandemic hit us. I loved it! Hoping to join more, if situation allows. 

Monday, 1 February 2021

Monthly Goals Review: January 2021

Alright, it's that time of the month again. My monthly goals will be based on the goals I've set for 2021

Financial Goals 

1) Save at least 40% of my income every month 


Spending breakdown

Note: I stay with my parents, and this saves me from expenses such as rent, utility fees food expenses, which I am really grateful for.

The largest chunk of my expenses goes to Shopping, followed by Transportation (eg: petrol, parking, toll and my monthly instalment for my car loan), Food & Beverage (my expenses when eating out), Friends & Family (eg: expenses incurred when treating friends/family, or donations).

As we spent more than half of January in lockdown, it was easier to save up as I don't go out as often, other than to buy groceries or take-out. On a typical month, I believe my eating out expenses (categories as Food & Beverage) and Transportation expense would be higher. 
Under my Shopping expenses, the biggest contributor was my Grocery spending, which, is not a big surprise, given that I cook a lot nowadays. This is followed by spending on electronics (my monthly instalment payment for my stand mixer!), and stationery.

I've spent quite a bit on new stationery purchase for the month of January. I've recently gotten into the habit of recipe journalling, where I"d write down recipes I've tried and tested and note down what modifications I've done etc.

I've started to find the joy in journalling and hence purchased a few unnecessary items such as washi tape and alphabet stamps, but as this ritual of mine I find it therapeutic, so why not invest in some things that'd make this ritual more pleasant and enjoyable :) Spending justified! I bought a few notebook refills, a notebook, some washi tapes and a stamp set for my journaling habit. 

2) Establish a side income stream

OBVIOUSLY, nothing happened.

Right now I feel as though I am lacking the courage and confidence to start. I keep citing that I need to do more research and have a long-term plan on how it will roll out. 

Silly me also disabled Carousell notifications on my phone because I find it rather annoying how they've been sending advertisement as push notifications. And turns out I missed out on two prospective buyers messages because of this huhuhu. 

For the month of February, I will start listing some of my self-propagated plants on Carousell. Shameless promo, if you're looking for some terracotta pots or self-propagated plants, do check out my profile on Carousell :D 

3) Invest at least 20% of my income

As mentioned, this is an autopilot/passive goal as I've set up an auto-debit into my Stashaway account every month :) 

In case you're interested to set-up a StashAway account, you may use my referral code and we can get our first RM30,000 managed for free for 6 months :D 

Personal Growth / Learnings

1) Listen to at least one podcast every day

Check! It's now a habit of my to listen to podcasts first thing I do once I wake up, thank you Mi Earbuds! Shared some of the notable ones in this post :) 

For the month of February, I want to try keeping a log of podcasts I've listened to, and my personal learnings/takeaway from it. 

2) Read at least one paragraph of non-fiction/fiction every day

And this total up to four books read for the month of January 2021!

If you're interested to read my thoughts/reviews on these books, do click on the links below: 

3) Participate in at least one online events and/or online courses every month

For the month of January, I completed the Science of Wellbeing course by Yale University on Coursera. (PS I am doing the free version, which means I don't get the certificate of completion, I only go through all their lecture materials and quizzes and do not submit their assignments)  

You probably have read articles raving about this course before (here's one by Business Insider). I've also many friends that took this course that was raving about it, so I've decided to give it a go.

The expected readings and videos for each week wasn't too heavy, compared to a course I am currently taking now (will be writing about this for February goal review), I spend an average of 2-3 hours per week completing the course :) 

I like how their assignments are all things you implement in real-life, rather than...plain essay writing. In fact, your first assignments include a personality quiz to assess your strength, and also to measure your perceived level of happiness

My strengths - I agree on the curiosity and love of learning part :D 

You'll also be given an e-workbook, where every week you're expected (or more like, encouraged) to do a retirement exercise (eg: sleep 8 hours, perform a random act of kindness etc) 

I find that some of the concepts introduced are not completely new (some were already part of my personal beliefs prior to this, and/or I've learnt about it from some TED Talk), but it has reaffirmed a lot of my personal beliefs, backed with proper data and research. It also gave me a logical & structured way to implement all these concepts in my personal life.

Would I recommend this course? Yes :) Do give it a try! 

4) Cook/Bake at least one dish per week

Week 1: Dak Galbi, Lemon Ginger cookies, Zha Jiang Noodles 

Week 2: Sourdough Pizza, NY Cookies (tried out a different recipe!), made my very first sourdough loaf and Char Siew!
Week 3: Sourdough Loaf with Rye (20%), and homemade ramen from scratch!

Week 4: Sourdough chocolate chip cookies, Beef Goulash

Also want to share some of my #failed bakes hahah.
Tried making sourdough banana bread, but I think because I didn't use enough baking powder and did not properly mix the batter, the cake came out dense :( I made a UFO sourdough rye too - as I accidentally broke the surface tension while shaping it, resulting in a flat-ish bread. 

It's always quite frustrating when what you're making doesn't end up how you visualise it to be, but it's always a good lesson :) And once you find out your mistakes, you most likely will remember not to repeat it the next time! 

Also made some of my old classic favourite - sourdough crackers, pumpkin soup, kale chips and brownies chips! 

My personal favourite cook/bake this month is the sourdough chocolate chips cookies! Absolutely love it. Although making these cookies requires a few extra steps (eg: browning the butter to remove excess moisture, as when you add the sourdough starter in, you're introducing extra moisture into the batter!). The Zha Jiang Noodles is also my personal favourite - this one is quick and easy to make, perfect for a weeknight dinner. 


That's it for January 2021! Hoping to be as productive & disciplined in February. Chinese New Year is coming and I know for sure my temptation to shop for clothes would sky-rocket. I'll try my best to keep myself grounded, and remind myself about my ultimate end goal. 
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