cait +tiff


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T / on quiet time

Photo Credit: Alexandra Roberts for She Explores.

Today I did something unprecedented.  I went quiet.  For only ten minutes.  And it was exactly what I needed.  Professionally-diagnosed adult ADHD notwithstanding, I also suffer from millennial noise, side hustle fatigue and chronic sprinting.  The internal chatter is nuts.  And the fatigue is all too real.  So spurned on by Cait’s amazing words on meditation and equanimity, I did it.  I meditated.  I should also mention that I’m the least likely to do this.  Ask my mom.  Calm, cool, collected child I was not.  Even in my moments of rest, there’s a podcast on.  There’s always something.

I am an extrovert with introvert tendencies that I’m not always aware of.  I said yes to too many things in the past month and tried to find quiet time while still doing things.  My favourite is cooking dinner.  But my mind is still running then.  The wonderful ladies from My Favourite Murder are providing me entertainment.  I am simultaneously chopping, cooking and cleaning.  I always have a TV show on while I’m editing photos.  I tell myself I totally have a relaxing pre-sleep routine of silence and reading.  But that’s completely untrue because I’m on Instagram, reading the news and trying to plan a trip.  At the same time.  My brain generally looks like this:

Yup. My brain is your desktop with too many windows open.

It’s probably why I feel exhausted.

And that’s when I was confronted with the best idea ever: extreme quiet.  It means you’re going beyond the noise.  Restoring all the systems and getting your energy back.  And there’s no expensive retreat involved.  It’s like that cabin in the north I’ve always wanted to own. Ever since I started this desk job, I found myself without my beloved nap.  Geez Louise do I miss my nap.  But the moment, I turned on Calm.com, got my breathing under control (I sometimes forget to breathe, which is a recent revelation), and obeyed that Zen of a voice telling me to tune out, I got there.  I felt like I was asleep at my desk without pulling a George Costanza (been there, done that).  It’s a weird feeling.  You’re literally going dark for a little bit.  It felt amazing.  Like I said, I don’t regularly meditate.  Savasana and I are like me and green smoothies.  But I can see myself doing this every day.

Even if you’re not a desk monkey, I recommend it.  I can’t change how I am living at the moment.  But I can at least make it better.  Calm.com even has a series on anxiety, which I cannot wait to dive into.  And in between I can go back to back to all the things, until they get too much.  And then rinse, repeat.  Try it sometime.

 

 


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C / two things I learned yesterday

I have been taking meditation classes for the past few months. It’s been helpful to have a class every week that helps me be less of a spaz while I am going through a bunch of transitions in life. (Note: transitions take a damn long time.) I am taking a mindfulness series at The Den, which is a little haven of beautiful things and nice people, right near Mood fabrics on LaBrea. The class is taught by Heather Prete, who is the kind of wonderful that people pretend to be. If she started a cult, I would be first in line to drink the Koolaid.

Anyway, the classes are wonderful, and though I rarely feel like I am “doing it right” I am loving it, and the practice has brought a lot of good stuff into my bouncy brain. We just started a new series last night, and the class focus was on equanimity.

I am going to be honest here, I didn’t really know what equanimity was until last night. It’s basically the ability to keep a balanced state of mind, despite the conditions around you. You are able to accept what is, but not in a way that you ignore it, or avoid it. You can still have a discerning mind, and have opinions on the issue at hand, but you keep it together. It’s the ability to accept the situation without adding more layers of stress to it. This definition is clearly from my class notes.

This is kind of a hard one for me, because I love to judge my judgements, and I pile all kinds of stuff on top of seemingly simple issues. It’s my favorite. During the class, Heather said something that really works for me.

“Everything is perfect, just as it is, and it could use a lot of improvement.”

This was said by someone, whose name I forgot to write down.
I constantly feel like I am behind on my life. Switching careers in your 30’s is not a great way to feel “caught up.” When I think about it, and I am feeling rational, I know that there is nothing to catch up on, and there is no place that I am “supposed” to be. When I am NOT feeling logical, I compare myself to others, feel like I have wasted my life making other people happy and now I am looking for work at 33 and everyone else is like 5 and went to art school and is better than me and they have a thigh gap and I maybe this haircut wasn’t the best idea and how the hell do you write a cover letter and this is what a spiral looks like. Ta-da!
I like this quote because its a linear way of resetting my brain, that I am where I am supposed to be, that I am not running late on my life, that I’m not doing it wrong.
The other thing that was said that really stuck with me was this:

“When we lose our equanimity and become deregulated, it means something needs attention.”
Heather said this, and it’s basically a way of saying “THANK YOU,  FOR THE POWER TO LOSE MY SHIT.” That’s how I took it, at least. When we become deregulated and feel overwhelmed, it’s our brain poking us in the face and saying “Hey, dummy. Stop it, I don’t like that.” Then your balanced, chill brain can be like “Oh hi, spaz brain, I see you there. I smell what you are stepping in, and I am going to take care of it.” So while I can try to stay equanimous (new word, 5 points!), listening to how you feel is also super important and your emotions are sort of a warning system for physical or emotional danger.
I am not totally sure if that all made sense or not, but it was super helpful to me.
Love, California Cait, who has totally buried herself in every cliché and is going to do pilates and drink green juice now. Maybe yoga later, who knows?
caitsig


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T / happy monday / the hustle is real

Photo Credit: Create & Cultivate (another great resource for ladies who #werk)

How do I say this?  Life is busy.  I have battened down all the hatches. There is no chances of this ship sinking.  Deadlines are being reached, sort of.  I have clients now!  Which is something I would never have thought would happen if you asked me three years ago.  These are all obviously good things because, you know, #makingit.  But I can’t wait for a break (I’ve got a month left before I get one).  Being stuck at this desk job probably isn’t helping.  I’m also working on weekends.  To deal with it all, I’ve definitely been picking three.  Which means that some things have gotten voted off the island.  But call me a masochist, I don’t necessarily mind it.  Though I won’t say no to a Sunday morning off, either.

I’m not complaining, but the last few weeks have really made me realize the importance of flexibility.  How privileged I was to work as a freelancer for a whole three years that let me learn, practice and prepare for the gig I really wanted.  And likewise, the privilege of falling back on a really well paying job when I realized my bank account needed a boost.  I’m also starting to think about what I need to do to make it all happen, like boundaries, rules, and the power to say ‘no.’  While also being a good friend and partner all at the same time.  And how does being a woman fit into all of this?  These are the things when you’ve got a side hustle going.  And they’ve all been swirling around in my head lately.  Then International Women’s Day happened.  And naturally, I wanted to share some of the things that have kept me chugging along over the past few weeks and helping to get all those things done and living a well designed life.  Oh right, and these all come from ladies.


Photo Credit: Kate Arends.

Community is a wonderful thing.  I have the community in front of me.  The incredibly inspiring and wonderful women who exist in the real space and sweat, and the friendships who might be over a significantly large body of water.  These women all keep me afloat. And then there’s all the women who are letting their voices out on the web.  Kate Arends is one of these women and I’ve been really getting into all of her monthly themed and incredibly honest essays.  This month, it’s Women Who #Werk, and it couldn’t come at a better time.  And it’s all so real.  Definitely pay attention to her space if you’re needing some reads on it all.

Photo Credit: Jessica Murnane.

I’m being a heck ton better about everything I put into my body.  This past month, my pod-crush Jessica Murnane released One Part Plant.  Her podcasts have helped get me through things before, but now she has a cookbook that can help my insides work better. Lena Dunham even wrote the foreword.  After the holidays, my body had taken a literal beating.  I wasn’t feeling great.  Bloated was just the start of things.  Even though I was working out nearly every day of the week, I knew I needed to make changes beyond a single month of clean eating.  And I’m glad I made some new rules for myself: more home cooked meals.  More plants.  More good things.  And since then, I’ve never felt better.

GIF Credit: Libby VanderPloeg

Werk landed into my Inbox the other day.  Right after a conversation with a bunch of multi-hyphenate ladies as we were discussing all the things they do to make things happen.  And what gets left behind.  Ever wanted to know where the flexible jobs were? You know, the ones with the opportunity to work remotely? On your own time? So you could also do all the other things that were important to you?  They’re at Werk waiting for you.


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T / happy monday / not for you

Photo Credit: Tiffany Tsang

Photo Credit: Tiffany Tsang

I got this video from Cait and it is exactly what I wanted to see this month.  I’ve done something athletic since I was tiny.  I think my parents knew I had to get that excess energy out somehow.  And eventually it became part of my identity.  I had to always be moving.  But it’s also forged this resilience in me so I know that I can get through whatever obstacles that life throws at me.  This month I’m challenging myself beyond what I’m used too.  But this isn’t about that.

This is about getting moving in every way possible.  And celebrating all the women who are moving, building, creating, and surmounting. Including you.  You can start anytime.  And you don’t have to be Serena Williams, Sheryl Sandberg or Anna Wintour.  When I think about these women, and the amazing young female entrepreneurs here too, they did it for themselves and their achievements have spread to others too.  And there is no better time than now.

There’s been a few words I’ve been repeating to myself, to keep everything in check: that only person you’re competing against is yourself; that you are your only boundary; and practice, fail, practice, fail, practice, succeed.

It’s exactly what this little video from ESPN-W celebrates (as well as ladies who lift!).  It’s inspiring me more than anything today.  Can you tell that I’m in this weird hyper motivated space?  I blame this video (and therefore Cait!)

I also just discovered that the Notorius RBG gets moving too.  And that makes me really happy.


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C / a year ago

show

A year ago today, I was in a car with my parents on the way to Kep. I was exhausted, because the day before, I had put on my first fashion show.

I think it took me a while after the show to figure out how I felt. I know this, because people kept asking me, and I would just stare into the distance and say “good, really good.” Lies. Nothing profound came to me because it was the beginning, and no one ever realizes what is happening at the beginning.

I do, however, remember everything that went wrong with the show. Every stupid detail.

  • One of the models didn’t even walk because the dress was re-fitted too many times and I tried to save it but I couldn’t.
  • A few of the dresses that were dyed turned out too light, and I hated the sad-lavender color that I couldn’t change.
  • One of the dresses ripped before the show.
  • The makeup took longer than we thought so we didn’t have time for a proper run-through before the show and no one got touch-ups before walking.
  • I really wanted all the models to be comfortable so I ended up designing things more for them and less for me.
  • One of the shirts was made with a neckline so small, the model had to take out her hair, that had just been done, and wiggle her way into it.
  • There weren’t enough drink tickets.
  • At one point, the damn DJ came down to the runway DURING the show to take photos for himself, and missed the cue for the finale. He only came back up to his booth after seeing my head explode with expletives. He had one job. One. Job.
  • I said bad words really loudly.
  • I wanted to include more people but I was worried that the venue was too small so I had to say no to people when they wanted to come support me.

I remember being sweaty, and chugging champagne, hoping it would take hold of my brain, or at least take care of the nerves. I remember being mad at the champagne when it did neither. One of my lovely model/friends did a little toast for me before the show, and it was probably very sweet. I, of course, don’t remember anything she said, because I was SO not in the moment and instead, running through all the scenarios where everything went wrong and someone caught on fire and died and everyone hated the clothes and Anna Wintour was there and said “you will NEVER make it in fashion” in front of all of my friends who by then, of course, hated me. None of those things happened, but welcome to how anxiety feels.

The entire night I felt an inch away from tears, and it was exhausting. Fashion is so glamorous.

I did cry when my dad gave a speech at the end of the show, in front of everyone. It was a happy cry, and my heart still fills up when I think of it. I cried when I saw Tiff walk, because she was the person that pushed me into designing, and had an incredible amount of faith in me when I deserved none of it. I also cried when my mom walked, because it was my MOM and she was walking in my fashion show and how do you not cry? And…I might be crying now, whatever. Mind your business.

In any case, I really didn’t enjoy the show. But I am SO glad I did it. I was scared of it and had no idea what the power of vulnerability would do for me. Putting things out into the world to be judged has never been something I am comfortable with. I even tried to bribe my high school english teacher with two papers, so I wouldn’t have to present in front of the class. When we started the blog, I would tear through every piece I put up, scared that someone might see it and scoff. I’m sure that happens, it just doesn’t actually matter. But I would have never gotten to the place I am now, on my couch in LA, if I hadn’t done the show. The show made me a designer, for real. I designed a collection, my friends walked a runway lined with fake candles, and we had photoshoots and made a damn look book. How legit is a look book? So legit.

So I am thankful for the whole experience of the show. Would I change things? Of course, there was no world where I was going to walk out of the door and make it perfect. But it’s a place to grow from, and I like my cozy little starting point. It was kind, full of people I love, and I got free french fries afterwords. Honestly, I wouldn’t have wanted it to be perfect. I can’t handle the pressure of constantly creating perfection, I’m not Adele.

If you want to see photos from the show, they are here, here, and here. I will always be grateful that my messy little show was full of so many incredible ladies. Thanks, guys.

caitsig

 

 

 


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C / busy head

I can’t seem to write a damn thing today. I started a piece about how I look for inspiration in other people’s work, and how fun it can be to cruise through Moda Operandi and pretend I have 4k to drop on a dress. Then I started a piece on how dance had been an amazing source of power and beauty for me this week. I was excited to write it and then realized I had nothing real to say about it. I just like it.

I have felt that way a lot in the last few weeks. I can’t decide on a photo to use for a header, I can’t decided how to arrange things in my apartment, and I can’t decide what to do for the next 10 minutes. I have started writing again, after not doing so for about a month, and that has given a bit of clarity to my days, but I’m out of my groove, and trying to wiggle my way back in. I’m sure a lot has to do with still settling into a new place, job stuff changing and feeling out a new life, but the incredible lack of structure in my life right now is turning out to be more frustrating than liberating.

So I decided to add more structure, and signed up for over-priced pilates classes that will make me feel bad if I don’t go. Hoping that works.

Open to ideas if you have them, have a good weekend x
caitsig


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T / how i’m wearing 2017

I haven’t repeated an outfit since December 1, 2016.  It’s been nine weeks.

Here are the rules:

  1. I can wear whatever I want on the weekend (read: athleisure and party outfits).  These distinct outfits only apply to weekdays.
  2. Plain coloured bottoms (read: the army green, the black and the denim) and underthings are repeatable
  3. I must make my way through every possible outfit combination in my wardrobe before I can purchase a new item.
  4. I get rid of everything that doesn’t wind up being worn or doesn’t fit me anymore when I deem this whole experiment “finished” (I’m nowhere near finished).
Photo Credit: Olivia Rae James (left) and Alison Engstrom for Camille Styles

Photo Credit: Olivia Rae James (left) and Alison Engstrom (right) for Camille Styles.

I started this little exercise on the day I started my new desk job.  I needed a way to express myself and be a little creative since my daily activities as a freelancer were taking a pause that would occupy the better part of a year.  I also wanted to be a little more ethical, sustainable and thoughtful about what I was purchasing and making through a year.  As a textbook hoarder, I collect, and collect and collect. Phnom Penh’s plethora of Japanese second hand shops and flea markets are my wonderland.  I never really get rid of anything until the small tear becomes utterly and completely irredeemable.  I also have a significant portion of my wardrobe made.  In the final months of 2016 I was getting a new piece (or two!) made every month!  I’m also Cait’s beta-tester!

My wardrobe was getting a little out of control.  And instead of paring everything down to nine items, I decided to wear it all.

A little KonMari, a tiny bit capsule wardrobe and a whole lot of mindfulness, I wanted to test the limits of my closet.  I’m also very much a one-sided dresser.  This means I usually open the dominant door of my closet(s) and wear whatever is in front of me, on top of the pile, or just plain available.  Which usually means whatever just got washed and hung.

Photo Credits: Ana Schechter (left and right) and Christine Han (center) for Cup of Jo.

Photo Credits: Ana Schechter (left and right) and Christine Han (center) for Cup of Jo.

Are you getting my drift?  In this time of fast fashion and a hyper-consumption, I accidentally made the resolution to take a pause in my purchasing.

I’m on week 9 now…and the end looms near.  I’m discovering everything that was in the unfortunate dark side of my closet.  It’s “winter” in Cambodia now and I’m completely taking advantage of trouser-friendly weather.  I didn’t know I owned so many tops!

It’s also reduced the time I need to determine outfits. Every Sunday night, I set out my every single outfit I plan to wear through the week (mindfulness – check! capsule wardrobe, check!).  And tah-dah, no more tornados of decision fatigue (read: a huge mess).  I quickly plowed through every single office-appropriate dress I owned (over the first three weeks).  My field work outfits underwent the same treatment.  I’m also discovering items that make me think “what the hell was I thinking?” TOSS! Konmari method, check.  I’m making do with all these low-waisted things I bought in 2011 and eagerly await when access to high waisted everything comes into my radar.

It’s something everyone can do.  For whatever your end goal is. Whether  you’re trying to save a little money this year, or you’re wanting to be a more conscious about your consumption, or maybe you’re trying to figure out what you want to get rid of, this little experiment does it all.  Are you up for the challenge?

 

 

 


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T / happy monday / eat together

Photo Credit: Betty Liu

Photo Credit: Betty Liu

I wasn’t exactly festive this past weekend. #badchinese.  I blame Voldemort’s red haired cousin for sending me down that black hole of despair.

But then my partner shared this little bit of news with me.  And it was good news.  Berliners had warmly embraced the Syrian bakery.  How amazing is that?  Even in Europe where nationalist movements are threatening economic and political cohesion, cultures are coming together around food.  Similar things happened over Thanksgiving dinners in North America last year.

Breaking bread together isn’t the panacea for world peace (because we all know that aliens arriving is pretty much the only solution).  But coming together over food is a step towards embracing diversity, welcoming new arrivals, and truly being unified.  Eating across continents is a rebellion in the face of vracism and oppression.   It’s also the kind of behaviour that keeps us all kind.

So celebrate all the cultures. Eat all the foods.  It’s not exactly lobbying your Congressperson (do that too), but the child who remembers the falafels traded for ham and cheese sandwiches in elementary school cafeterias, or all the Chinese takeout that comes with life, are probably apt to make better choices in their adult life.

And on that note, I wanted to share some of my favourite, and some of my more aspirational Chinese recipes.  Having spent an adolescence trying to distance myself from my family’s culture and then finding myself completely immersed in it as an adult basically means I’m playing catch up with all the food things.  It also means I’ve got a roster of favourite Chinese heritage food bloggers that I occasionally deep dive into when I’m missing mom’s cooking.  I absolutely invite you to eat all of these faves.  Then go to your neighbour’s house, borrow their spices and create the best delicious crazy thing ever (see: all the Chinese hyphenated cuisines).  Gong hay fat choy!


knife-cut-noodles-le-jus-dorange-17

Photo Credit: Betty Liu

Chinese noodles are AH-mazing.  Handcut chinese noodles though.  They kind take me through the roof. I’m aspiring to make these guys happen this year.  And then I’m going to hop on the Xi’an noodle train and make those too.

Or if I’m lazy, I might just make what some would call Chinese “spaghetti bolognese.”  But please don’t call it that. I hate it when people do.

Sweet and sour pork is a Tsang family standard.  This recipe very accurately replicates the one I helped my mom with.

Photo Credit: Stephanie Le

Photo Credit: Stephanie Le

As is this whole steamed fish.  Because who doesn’t like a lucky fish?

molly-yeh-chicken-dumplingsAnd I cannot forget dumplings.  Who could ever forget the potsticker?!?!  My mom’s trick is to use chicken stock in place of water in the “pot sticking” process too!


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T / it’s not another retirement

Photo Credit: Don Hong-Oai

Photo Credit: Don Hong-Oai

*Warning – there’s so much acknowledged privileged whining here.

When I left global public health consulting and a more traditional way of earning an income to live life as a millennial stereotype at the brink of 30, I joked and called it “early retirement.”  I was going to get to pursue creative things, mostly photography, full time.  And pepper this time with short tiny consulting opportunities here and there to make sure I could maintain things until things could take off.  These tiny little projects sometimes took me to cool places, or they let me do things wherever I wanted. Or they were the coolest little opportunities to get some concrete experience doing communications work.

But then I got offered a desk job.  That’s right, a full time desk job that would bring me back to my pre-retirement life.  And I couldn’t say no.  There were toys that I needed to buy, a Cait I needed to go visit in April.  And savings! I’m not necessarily a high maintenance kind of girl, but I apparently like expensive toys and far flung places (like LA, right?).

Nonetheless, I had to come to terms with returning to an industry I had made the decision to leave.  It’s not like I haven’t had these feelings before. Was it the end of the world? No. It’s an opportunity.  I’m coming to this new job a couple of years wiser.  I’ve shifted passions, but I can still be good at what I do at work.  Except with a little more distance this time.  And it’s not like I’m selling my soul here.  I am not throwing in the towel here.

I love this quote from Amanda Kohr and her profile on She Explores.

Words by Amanda Kohr, via She Explores.

Words by Amanda Kohr, via She Explores.

And I am epically inspired by this new theme song to my life.  For at least this contract.

I’m looking forward to going full throttle with the clients I can still make time for (weekends and evenings!), going bigger and bolder with projects, and all the toys! So many toys.  And the places!  I like barriers because they’ve always pushed me harder.

So I have to spend eight hours a day in something that doesn’t necessarily feed my soul, but lets me do more things that will help feed my soul instead. And eventually that golden needle of a YES will show up. I’m so excited.  (Except for the fact that I lost my beloved afternoon nap).


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T / happy monday / on great bosses

Photo Credit: Desmond Louw & Antonia Heil for Freunde von Freunden

Photo Credit: Desmond Louw & Antonia Heil for Freunde von Freunden

I’m not writing this up to suck up.  But I wanted to commemorate.  Since I finished school almost a decade ago, I’ve been so incredibly lucky to have had great bosses.  I’ve also had my fair share of not so great ones.  Never horrible, thankfully.  But let’s focus on the good ones. Great bosses aren’t something you work hard to achieve.  They happen to you, like having a monkey pee on you from an electrical line does.  They’re like leprechauns basically. I scored big time have had a few really great ones who fished me out from the chum, gave me great opportunities and showed me how to work, how to be and sometimes both at the same time.  They were also incredibly patient (thank you!).

One of those bosses – actually, the very first boss and the one who helped me (and so many others) figure how to work – passed away unexpectedly last week.  I found out early on a Monday morning. Over the past week, its made me reflect on all of the unintended teachers in our lives.

Great bosses know how to slap you around to make you better. They know when to give you a useless project when you’re naive and young, because it will make you work that much harder.  They’re also quasi-parental, quasi-older sibling and semi-psychotherapist.  They’re also there for stories and minestrone.  So many stories that it makes you want to be able to tell tales of similar calibre when you’re a boss yourself.  I think I’ve got a couple.  One involves Ricky Martin.

And great bosses are the ones you want to meet decades after to say “look at me now, I’m all grown up and I’ve learned a few things.” One of you will wind up on a tiny island in the middle of nowhere. You’ll exchange messages every so often, because that’s what you do and it feels nice.

Great bosses become friends.  So it sucks when they go away.  But at least you’ll have his playlists with a selection of Iron Maiden, vintage French rock, and bossa nova interpretations of the Rolling Stones that you wretch about but secretly love.  In the name of office playlists, here’s one for your week.

Ciao,