October 30, 2015

Why I Am "Quitting" Piano

Written earlier this year:

If you know me well, you'd know that I play piano and have been playing piano for the past 12 years of my life. By no means am I a prodigy of any kind, I'm actually just an average piano player who has been learning for a long time! The January of 2013, I took my practical exam for Performer's ARCT and I passed. Not by much, but still, I passed. This was the first time I encountered the predicament of whether I wanted to continue with my lessons or quit, as I had already attained the certificate required to teach others. When it became clear to my piano teacher that I was slightly hesitant to continue, it most likely became a dinner table conversation at her house because the next week I went to her studio, her husband approached me on the topic. In the end, I decided that I would continue with piano thinking: "I've been learning for so long, why stop now? There's only LRCM left and I'm so close, why would I give up now and waste all the years I've spent up until now?"

A few weeks ago, under a ton of stress from school and other personal problems, I finally broke down. My piano teacher was scheduling me for a bunch of classes during weekdays because I had an Advanced Harmony exam coming up, and it was just putting so much stress on me. For the past few months, I have just felt like my entire life is being constricted into time slots that I have to follow to avoid a complete landslide of... everything. It began as a casual conversation with my mom before I started realizing how stressed out I was and I could NOT stop crying.

Present Day Thoughts:

I've held out on posting this because I just couldn't find the right words to say; I didn't know how to explain myself. I was scared that people would criticize me for wasting my parents money, but I know that that is far from the truth. They have given me a gift that is extremely valuable: music.

On Sunday, October 25, 2015, my family and I drove down to Calgary and arrived at the Taylor Centre of Performing Arts at Mount Royal University. It was a beautiful building with floor to ceiling windows and wooden panelled walls. I was there to receive my certificate for ARCT after having successfully completed my Counterpoint and History exams over the summer. It was such a surreal moment receiving my diploma because I had never planned on coming this far, but there I was, on stage, shaking hands with the President and CEO of The Royal Conservatory of Music.

However, at the same moment, there was a feeling of closure - a perfect ending of sorts. Music has, and always will be a big part of my life, but the time to quit my lessons has arrived. In my opinion, everything will always come to an end, which isn't a bad thing! Sitting in the audience with the rest of the graduates and Regional Gold Award winners brought me to the realization of how extremely fortunate I am to have received a musical education. But, it is time for an "ending". 

I have achieved far more than what I expected from myself. By no means am I quitting piano for good, I'm just no longer attending lessons. It has gotten to the point where playing piano is stressing me out, and I need a break from it. Maybe I'll continue lessons later, maybe not. This decision wasn't just made on a whim; as you can see, it took several months. But I am sure that this is the right decision.

Throughout my 12 years of piano lessons, I've learned more than piano. I learned what it means to be committed to something; I learned to teach theory to others; I learned to persevere and keep practicing even when it seems like it's going nowhere. The list is endless, and for that, I thank The Royal Conservatory of Music, my parents, and of course, my piano teacher, Thank you so much.

October 19, 2015

Book Review: The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

Published by Hyperion on September 11, 2012

As I started reading this book, I didn't know what to expect since I hadn't read any reviews or heard any comments from friends. Despite this, or maybe because of this, I enjoyed the book for its laughable moments and underlying inspiring message.

From this perspective, I was pleasantly surprised by the type of humour that was maintained throughout the book. Although I wasn't guffawing or crying from laughter, I definitely chuckled here and there. One of the most noticeable traits about this book is the emotional detachment with which the author writes in regards to various... questionable, events. If we were to be more in depth about this, I think Jonasson purposely writes from a third-person limited objective point of view to further contribute to the emotional detachment and emphasize the humour of the book.

It can also be interpreted as an attempt to characterize Allan's twisted optimism due to his upbringing as a child. One of my favourite things about this book was the fluidity with which Allan's past and present were weaved together and finally brought into a perfect knot at the end. As I was finishing the book, I got extremely excited with how seamless his past and present were weaved together.

One of my only criticisms would be in regards to the humour as well, contrary to my point above. There were some times where I felt a bit bored with the humour (vodka, vodka.... and more vodka) almost as if it were a bit too forced. Other than that, I loved the combination of historical events with Allan's story line and also the variety of characters. The story was so ridiculous that I enjoyed it!

October 12, 2015

Book Review: Us by David Nicholls

Published by Harper on January 1, 2014

First of all, the setting! I thoroughly enjoyed being brought into the European atmosphere; I loved how it felt like I was back in Venice eating gelato, walking around for hours, and being shouted at by vendors selling fake bags. Finishing the book, my desires to backpack around Europe, or at least travel as much of Europe as I can, have become undeniable.

The story was extremely touching, an intricately woven narrative that flashes back between Douglas' present and past. It deals with an issue that many people struggle with: letting go. Throughout the book, we see as Douglas attempts to "fix" his family because to let that fall apart would seem like he has failed. I found myself somehow relating extremely well to Douglas' thoughts and feelings throughout the book while still being irritated and somewhat embarrassed at how much he tried to crack those Dad jokes. At the same time, I also found his son an extremely relatable character: an artsy son who just is tired of taking typical tourist pictures of his parents.

It has given me so much to think about despite the clear age gap between myself and the characters in this book. I feel as if the message of learning when to let go of something and not feel as if you have failed does not pertain only to marriages, but also to any other people or things we love and are passionate about.

October 03, 2015

Why Autumn is My Favourite Season

I love everything about this season even though it's one of the shortest seasons, lasting only about a month before the snow comes. The transition from summer to winter is absolutely beautiful; the golden leaves, the slightly colder, but not freezing, weather, the crunch of leaves under my feet, everything. Although everything is dying, it is making way for the blooming of flowers once again in spring. It just so happens that my birthday also falls around the time that the leaves begin to change their colour. Here are a few photos that I took, my photos will also always be posted to my Flickr.

The High Level Railway Streetcar

June 29, 2015

Book Review: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

 photo Wild-by-Cheryl-Strayed_zpslnvfreci.png
It has been AGES since I've written a book review, purely by choice. However, this book is truly worth writing a review about because it was unique and different from what I usually read. Wild was one of the first non-fiction books I read and it was a thoroughly rewarding and intriguing book. It is told by a woman who hiked over eleven hundred miles through all sorts of terrain. Not only is it a physical journey, the book takes us through her mental journey as she finds herself in situations that she was not prepared for.

I found myself forgetting that it was even non-fiction, the beauty and descriptiveness of the language unraveled in such a way that sometimes it seemed just like another fiction book. This just reinforced the difficulty that Cheryl Strayed faced in her journey along the Pacific Crest Trail; that I would take stories of her adventures as fiction. Another amazing asset of the book was the honesty to which the author told the stories of her past before hiking the PCT. Of course, there are probably certain things that were left out, however, it was extremely brave to admit to situations that, although were vital in leading to her decision to hike the trail, were slightly astounding.

As I journeyed through this book myself, I found myself questioning my early commitment to doing a long hike myself in the future. Not that I feel discouraged, but reading this has made me realize how much preparation is needed before embarking on a trek like the one Cheryl did. I can't imagine being alone without my friends and families for about 3 months, let alone HIKING alone. Certainly, she did meet people along the way, but personally, I feel attached to so many people here at home. Not only would there need to be preparations in terms of provisions, but I would also need to mentally prepare myself for such a trip.

Wild was a story filled with lessons of pushing through all the hardships, whether that be a loss of a family member, a friend or the pain of blisters. Its message extends to inspire its readers to maybe embark on a physical challenge such as a hike, or maybe just through a difficult period of time.

April 25, 2015

Cooking With My Mom: Radish Cake

Recipe is at bottom, you can use these photos for reference though!!

Radish Cake

A Chinese dish that is often made for Chinese Lunar New Year but can be eaten year round at dim sum restaurants. This recipe may differ from restaurants, but my mom and I use whatever ingredients we have on hand and vary the recipe from there.
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 50 minutes
Total time: 80 minutes
  • 1 package (16oz) glutinous rice flour
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 large radish, shredded
  • 1/2 cup Chinese sausage, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup conpoy (dried scallops), soaked
  • 1 tbsp ginger, minced
  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 block rock brown sugar
  • dash white pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp sesame oil
Cooking Directions
  1. Combine 4 cups of water and the package of glutinous rice flour, mix thoroughly.
  2. Heat oil over medium-high heat, add the garlic and ginger and cook for about 30 seconds to a minute.
  3. Add the Chinese sausage, stir, saute until browned on the outside. Add the convoy, stir.
  4. Add the shredded radish, and mix everything together. Then add the block of rock brown sugar and cook, covered, until the sugar has melted. About 5-7 minutes, you can uncover and stir the mixture around towards the end. You'll also want to cover the sugar under the shredded radish to get it to melt a bit quicker.
  5. Uncover, shake in a dash of white pepper, to taste. Add the sesame oil. Stir the mixture.
  6. Reduce to medium heat. Using a ladle, slowly add the glutinous rice flour mixture into the radish mixture. Continue stirring until the mixture has thickened up.
  7. Remove from heat and add INTO the glutinous rice flour mixture, NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND. Stir and mix until everything is thoroughly combined and dispersed throughout.
  8. Pour into any sort of circular pan with high sides. The one in the pictures is a 10" pan. Steam, covered, for 40 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.

February 21, 2015

What I Cook for Myself

Recently, I have had to begin cooking for myself and I've had quite an amazing time throwing recipes together. It's quite a challenge as my mom always cooks dinner for us, but I think I'm starting to get the hang of it. Here are just a few things that I've made so far...

January 09, 2015

The CUTEST Socks!

Over the last few weeks I accidentally became obsessed with everything Bath & Body Works, and also with socks. So my mom and I went on a spree and now I have way too many candles (just kidding, can you ever have too much?) and I also bought the CUTEST socks. They are so soft and I love walking around the house in them. If there are any other places you know I could get cute socks, please let me know! :)

January 02, 2015

Breakfast for One! + New Year's Resolution

For most of my Christmas Break, my parents usually went to work before I woke up (at 10, since I slept really late), therefore I've been making my breakfast more often now. This probably isn't the MOST healthy I can be, but I just really wanted that cookie in the bottom right hand corner. Anyway, it's as simple as it looks, I just toasted some bread and sliced 1/2 an avocado and topped it all off with a sunny-side up egg.

As I'm writing this I realize how close I am to returning to school again and I can't help but moan about it. This break has been the only time that I've relaxed since school started and I seriously don't want to go back especially since I already know about the 5 tests and huge essay I have coming up. Not to mention having to study for my midterms that start in about two weeks. Time to go back to my coffee addiction...

Anyway, I went back to my old post from last year and saw this:

My New Year's Resolutions:
1. Maintain this blog for as long as I can humanly do
2. Try and comment more on other blogs
3. Volunteer more
4. Get a freaking job
5. Get my Learners'
6. Just keep on keepin' on........

You must be wondering(or not) whether or not I completed any of those resolutions. I think I've done a mediocre job at maintaining this blog, and I'm quite satisfied with my own revamping of it as well. Towards the end of the year however, I realized that it isn't as fun to review books any more, and so TODAY, I just want to put it out there that the book reviews will most likely stop. HOWEVER, that does not mean that I won't rave about a good book when I come across one. Furthermore, I'm trying to start cooking my own meals more often, so there will most likely be a lot more updates as I'm mastering the culinary arts (kidding).

Although I definitely failed on my second resolution, my third resolution has been expertly resolve, if I do say so myself. First of all, I volunteered at the Ice on Whyte Festival in January, then at the Silver Skate Festival in February, the Mother's Day Walk & Run in May, and The Underwear Affair in June. In the summer, I volunteered at a church day camp for a week with preschool students and taught the arts and crafts class (the most chaotic class, so it was pretty challenging but also really fun) ! Starting in April, I also began volunteering as a teacher's assistant for my piano teacher's theory classes, and in September, as a teacher's assistant at a weekend Chinese school. Then to top it all off to make it a great year, I volunteered at a family resource house on the morning of Christmas Eve making breakfast for people in the community. I've been able to seriously connect with my community this year and I've had a lot of fun volunteering at these events.

I also finally got my Learners' so this is a perfect leeway into this year's resolutions. Even though exercise and healthy eating were NOT in my resolutions last year (because I never thought it was possible for me to exercise regularly) I actually ended up getting into all that hoopla and it feels amazing(there will most likely be a blog post coming up on that). So it goes without saying that it's on my list of resolutions this year:
  1. Maintain a healthy lifestyle
  2. Continuing volunteering and giving back to the community
  3. Get licensed 
  4. Rejuvenate my love for photography and conquer the 365 Days Challenge
  5. Hang out with my friends more
  6. Save money (I've overspent on a bunch of stuff last year, whoops)
  7. Be more positive and believe in myself
Sorry for such a long post, to be honest, it could have been much longer but I decided not to elaborate too much on each of my resolutions. So this year with all of those resolutions, I just want to focus on being happy and finding ways to relax even if it means procrastinating once in a while. As for keepin' on, there have been several times last year where I seriously had regrets about a few things, but thanks to my friends, I was able to persevere.