Sunday, July 22, 2012

Modifying food choices even further

A few weeks ago I decided to eliminate dairy products from my diet just to see what would happen. I've had one common recurring health issue that many women get that has plagued me since I was in my 20s off and on. I found out that this issue is likely caused by milk and its other by-products.

I don't drink milk, but I do consume plenty of dairy: yogurt, cheese, half n half in my coffee. It's not a whole lot, but enough just the same. So I bought some soy creamer and a couple cartons of almond milk and coconut milk at Trader Joe's. I tried coffee with just the almond milk one afternoon and it was rather nasty. Half soy creamer and half almond milk was good. I don't want to go too heavy on soy products because that can be unhealthy too, so I try and balance it out.

A week ago I got the book Skinny Bitch from the library. In the past I was was put off from reading it because I had heard it was rather vulgar, but in the end, the salty language made it funny and not much different from how I hear people talk today anyway. But the basic message in the book is to recommend a vegan diet because it is the healthiest and most morally responsible way to eat.

So now I've been eating vegetarian as often as possible, filling up on my fresh fruit and vegetable juice in the morning and eating a big salad before having lunch or dinner. I've been trying out tempeh and making more vegetarian dinners. I've eliminated Diet Coke and have seltzer water or club soda if I want something bubbly. I put away the Splenda and now use raw agave nectar and use my steevia more often - no more artificial sweeteners.

I've lost SEVEN pounds!

I'd like to lose another 10-15 pounds, even more if possible. I've never been very overweight, just a little bit, and those pounds added up slowly over the years beginning with my happy comfort 5 pounds I put on just before getting  married. It needs to come off.

My husband is not vegetarian, nor contemplating a vegan diet, but to his credit (and he deserves a lot of credit) he has also modified his eating habits. This is a man who used to insist on meat for every meal and he'd eat big portions of meat. His weakness was beef.

He's now open to having beef only once a week, (I'll eat a different vegetarian meal on that day). The rest of the week has lighter meats with less portion sizes and a vegetarian meal once a week. He incorporates more vegetables into his meals and even joins me with a morning juice, something unheard of earlier!

Here are a couple of websites I enjoy reading that has been helpful:
Vegan Coach
Green Smoothie Girl
Forks Over Knives (great movie you MUST see. Their articles and recipes are terrific resources.)
Happy Cow

Do you have any recommendations? Success stories? I'd also love to hear comments if YOU are vegan or vegetarian with a non-veg spouse.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Summer Happenings

Since Aidan got out of "regular" school a few weeks ago, I've been spending a majority of my time with him. It's given me some time to think about the direction my life has taken and I'll sum it up as follows.


Golf is getting on board for a healthier lifestyle and I couldn't be happier. But our eating schedules are exactly opposite as are our sleeping habits, and that is a challenge.

I need to lose at least 15 pounds, preferably 20,  and it's becoming an urgent matter, mostly because I can't stand myself any longer. A friend of mine at the Thai temple says she simply does not eat after 4 pm. I like her idea and I'm considering giving it a try. However, Golf eats his main meal at night and if I have to cook, I will have to forbid myself to eat a bite.  Maybe I will have to eat a nice salad before 4 o'clock and then I won't be tempted.

I'd like to know if you've successfully committed to a lifestyle change regarding food when having to cook for your family. How did you do it?

I still juice every day, and now Golf's interested in joining me, so I've been getting lots of fresh produce at Berkeley Bowl for good prices and running them through the juicer every morning. I drink a liter of juice and I give a pint to Golf, who is still getting used to the taste.

I have not yet done a juice fast, because I think it might be too challenging having to fix meals for Aidan and Golf, but I might check out the Reboot forum to see if anybody there is doing that and finding support.

But I still get very tired, and I think that part of it is my mental state regarding work.


I feel utterly defeated with my online businesses. Last month gave me a total of $365 in earnings after 3 years of hard work. I don't have to tell you what kind of ROI that is. I have three websites right now and I'm letting one go. I'm not doing much with the other two because I feel so badly about them. The business model sucks, that's all I can say, and every webmaster and business owner is a slave to Google's whims. That's the bottom line and I don't want it any more.

The new business venture is definitely promising, and it incorporates art and writing. I am enthusiastic about the possibilities and I already have a story and am working on the preliminary sketches.

But instead of going at the task wholeheartedly with vim and vigor, I prefer to chat with other moms at the temple. When I do work I get sidetracked easily and find excuses to do something else. What is going on here?

I feel like I'm floating in some sort of weird void when it comes to financially contributing to the family. This has been an issue ever since we moved back from Thailand and it's a spiritual/emotional block I need to work through. Maybe I'm still reeling over my online failure.


I'm supposed to be meditating every day. I don't.
When Aidan was in regular school I would meditate every morning, but something about his summer schedule is not making me do it. I have plenty of time during the three days he's off, but instead I check FaceBook and now I'm writing in my blog.

When he goes to Thai school I am pretty good about sitting for half an hour in the main room, so I do feel good about that and it is helpful.

I have been listening to inspiring dharma talks where I want to work on myself and also change the world. But I also feel like I can't do much when my first responsibility is to take care of my family. And my family is my priority, so all things in good time. I'm not stressed about it, for taking care of Golf and Aidan gives me so much peace and satisfaction. It feels wonderful.

And so these are the three areas in my life that need some work. Writing it down gives it clarity and I see what I need to do. Hmm.. maybe once summer vacation is over, I'll update this to chart my progress.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

A Path Unfolding

My online businesses have been utterly devastated by Google and life has been turned upside down. Funny though, I feel numb to it all and don't care anymore. Right now I have zero interest and am taking a much needed break from building a website with an obsolete business model.

During this time off from work, I've been indulging in some activities that I enjoy. I've attended some meditation evenings and went on a date with my husband during the day to see Snow White and the Huntsman while Aidan's in school. 

Yesterday I drove to the Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City for a half-day mini-retreat. From 9:30 AM to 12:15 we had both walking and sitting meditation and a short dharma talk by Gil Fronsdahl, whom I've wanted to meet for awhile now as I've been listening to his podcasts for going on 6 months now!

It was a fabulous day. I've discovered just how much I enjoy walking meditation. It holds my attention quite well and moving my body and noticing the world around me with my eyes open is appealing. I can still become rather concentrated. I will explore this further, that's for sure.

What else do I plan to do during my time away from my websites? Well, Aidan starts Thai school on the 15th and I plan to take him to the temple and just hang out all day. I may take a hike in nearby Tilden Park, walk around the neighborhood, and help out at the temple. I'd like to contribute with work, like cleaning up after lunch. The wat also has a nice garden and I would like to do more walking meditation in that garden.

During these meditations, my path has become clear. I don't have to abandon online business, but I may have to give up my stroller website. It is not viable at this point, especially if Google keeps penalizing it. Successful online entrepreneurs always talk about offering a product and selling it yourself. Product, product, product.

I like to write and I like to draw. Golf, a friend of ours and I are developing a new venture together that will produce products and these products involve aspects of creativity that I'm good at and enjoy. So I shall put all my energy into this new venture. I'm not going to say too much right now, but you can be sure that I will write about it as it develops.

Oh, and this kind of work is possible to do from Thailand as well, so if things go well next year, at the very least we can visit for a month before deciding to move back.

The path is becoming clear and it's an exciting time!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Twists and Turns Ahead

Photo credit: Huffington Post
I've been working extremely hard for three years this June on my websites. I made the decision to go in that direction to earn income at home so I could have maximum flexibility for being there for my son. Take him to school, volunteer at the school, be with him for homework every day. I also wanted to be my own boss with unlimited earning potential.

Turns out I'm not the boss when it comes to online business. Google is. My business plan is not sound: it is utterly dependent on what the big G decides is worth ranking in their top pages. For years I've worked extremely hard to put out quality content. For my stroller site I actually buy strollers, take my own photos, carefully and thoroughly test them out, and do a video demonstration and review. Google doesn't think that's good enough, apparently.

Since last year Google has made some significant algorithm changes called Panda. Late last month they released another called Penguin. I won't get into all the details about what each of these means but I will say that most of these changes slashed my traffic in almost half each time. I'd get slammed, then build back up half a year later then get taken down again.

This is not a good business model. I also see other stroller review sites that SUCK with half-assed content thrown up and only stock photos used - sometimes extremely out of date ones, too. They get ranked higher than mine. What the heck???

So when I have one of hundreds of stroller review sites that can get wiped out overnight, even when mine is miles above the others in terms of quality and value to the reader, I realize my business is way too vulnerable. I cannot have a business that gets wiped out so easily.

Yesterday I listened to a dhamma talk by Ajarn Brahm called This Too Shall Pass, and after one of his famous stories he said, "When you are surrounded on all sides and you can't do anything, then do nothing."

That really spoke to me. I can't do anything about my website, so I'm doing nothing. It's going on the back burner. I will still write guest posts on a few blogs I've agreed to do monthly, but until Google changes again, I'm not going to bother. Why put in all that hard work and effort only to be punished?

During this time, another door has opened. Golf and his friend Will have discovered a business opportunity. One that could get our families back to Thailand for a time!

So I'm helping Golf. I'm spending my time on a project that could pay off big time, that has far more potential. I totally enjoy what I'm doing and once this project ends, I'll find something else to do to help.

During the summer when Aidan goes to Thai school I shall find some opportunities to do other things than worry about when I can work on my website. Perhaps I might volunteer a few hours a week in an old folks home nearby and make some good merit. I find I'm becoming intrigued by the elderly, knowing I shall be one of them one day. I might take some more day hikes in the regional parks nearby and, of course, help out in the Thai school during lunch. Maybe even work on my own language skills!

Rather than being bitter and angry about my situation, I am actually looking forward to what the future brings me. Google may change its algorithm again and I may get huge surges in traffic and sales, but I will know that that success could be as short lived as the next algo change. My purpose is beyond that.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Monday, April 16, 2012

First Daylong Retreat
I'd been planning for my best friend's 40th birthday for some time now, wanting to give her something very special. I'd heard of Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Marin for quite some time now, and thought that a day long retreat with her would be the perfect gift.

I've also been attending Insight Meditation Center talks in both Oakland and Berkeley, and basically Spirit Rock is the "mothership" of these centers, so I had a good idea of the teachings. I'd also heard the teacher of our daylong, Sharda Rogell, give talks on DharmaSeed via podcast.

The previous week had nasty weather, the most spectacular thunder and lightning storm we'd seen in years was only two days previous to our day trip. But Saturday could not have been more beautiful: crystal blue sky, crisp breeze and warm sun. The land on Spirit Rock is gorgeous, just look at the photo! 

A small flock of wild turkeys were strutting around and the male was all puffed out, showing off his stuff to the ladies. He was magnificent!

Without going into too much detail, our day consisted of talks, sitting meditation and walking meditation. I learned that I should work with my laziness by rescheduling meditation times when necessary and not scolding myself until I actually DO something (or don't do something as the case may be).

The talks were about letting go and trusting that everything will be OK because we don't really know what REALITY really is. Just being here now, coming back and being mindful, and trusting. That's the whole point of my journey.

I was able to define my journey style, so to speak. This inner adventure of mine is just to see what happens. No goals, no concerns if I'm "doing it right" or not. Just giving it a try, keeping at it, and seeing what happens. I liken it to me being a little bug on a leaf, carried away by a stream. The Dharma Stream as Sharda called it. :) I like that.

This was a great day for Mellie, too, she enjoyed the talks, got to practice her meditation posture, contributed to conversation, and loved the environment. We both ate delicious Indian food afterward and ended our experience that night when I dropped her off at her place.

Everything went perfectly. It couldn't have been better. Thank you.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Spring Break Plans (That Never Materialized)

This year for spring break we've decided to just stay home. In the past, we had some goals for spring break 2012.

The first was to be moved back to Bangkok for a few years. Yeah, I had it in my head over a year ago that by spring 2012 we'd be moving and ready to start the new Thai school year that commences in May. That certainly never happened! Funny how things change... My husband doesn't want to go now because of possible political upheaval. He says the country is on the brink of some major sh!t going down and wants to say far, far away.

Another idea I had in my head was to go visit my sister in Chicago. I've always wanted to see Chicago. I never pursued it fully and now spring break is here and it's not going to happen this time around. This is mostly because we're still just getting better in our finances and more sure footing would be better before taking a "real" vacation.

And speaking of a real vacation, if the job scene is looking better for my husband and my online business continues to improve, then we may consider going back to Thailand for a visit. I would love for Aidan to attend Daroonpat for a few weeks and take some trips this time. I'd like him to visit the beach and to take a day trip to Ayutthaya.

I feel very stagnant, but I do not dwell on this. I've been working more on improving income so that we don't HAVE to be stagnant any longer - got to work on goals in the right order after all! That is a mistake I've made in the past and it gets a person nowhere.

What is your story with goals that never materialize? How do you deal with feeling stagnant?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Strollers Galore!

Lots has been happening in my business lately. First it's finally been growing out of the slump it's been in since October, though I'm not at the visitor numbers I was at last April - jeez almost a year ago!

But I am coming back slowly but surely and that's all I can ask. It's made me work hard, and that is a good thing! As a matter a fact, I'm now producing my own stroller review videos that I imbed in my webpage reviews. You can see (and subscribe) to my YouTube channel here: BabyGearEnvy on YouTube.

Then earlier in the month I had contacted Joovy about reviewing another of their strollers, and surprisingly it was just delivered to me yesterday. I was surprised at how quick it happened, and quite pleased. Thank you Joovy! I have the new Scooter to review within the next few weeks, so let us keep our fingers crossed that the weather will cooperate for a good video opportunity.

Next, I wrote an article for my friend Tina over at Shopaholic Mommy. She has a fantastic blog that has just been redesigned and it looks incredible. I now write monthly articles for her site and my most recent contribution was just published yesterday on Maclaren Stroller News Updates for 2012. The article talks about the new changes made to one of their models and a new one coming out. You get to see a couple new color schemes as well. If you love Maclaren strollers, you will find this article interesting.

Lastly, I got the opportunity to write for another blog, more of a general lifestyle blog, and this article is about the Top 3 Umbrella Strollers for Every Budget. So no matter if you can spend less than $100 or over $200, you will still get a quality product.

Lots of strollers going on this week! I just love it!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Let the Juicing Begin!

I've been holding out, waiting for the right time to get a new juicer. Not just any juicer, but a Breville, the brand used on the movie Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. That was the movie that really inspired me to try juicing.

Although I've been making green smoothies for almost a year and a half, the limitations are that I can't use harder vegetables. I blend apples, cucumbers and celery, but certainly not root vegetables like carrots and beets. The juicer, I believe, gives me more variety, but it does not juice greens.

So I finally found a Breville on Craigslist. I'd been waiting patiently because yo can get a pretty good deal - sellers who've used it only a handful of times before discovering they aren't into the juicing lifestyle. I got the one pictured at right, it is the Compact version that I found for only $70. It has a tiny crack in the bowl and is $20 less than retail, though on Amazon it costs more than $150! (So much for cheaper on Amazon!) Luckily the seller lives in the same town, just two blocks away, actually, and she still had the user manual and cleaning brush. Woo hoo!

And it works quite well, though one of the complaints I've read in reviews is that bigger chunks of fruit and veggies pass through into the pulp instead of being juiced. My model does indeed do that a little bit, so what do I do? Scrape it out and run the pulp through once more. I'm able to get a little bit more juice!

So yesterday evening I made a concoction with apple, celery, and carrot with a nub of ginger for a kick. It was so good, I mean incredibly delicious! Unfortunately, Golf and Aidan are not as enthusiastic as I am. They take a sip here and there and don't like it so much.  Amazing how our tastes are so different!

Anyway, I made a bunch of this recipe and put it in the fridge for breakfast. The juicer sounds a bit like a vacuum cleaner and I figured that a sleeping husband and neighbors wouldn't appreciate the sound at 7 AM!  Plus it's a bit of work cleaning it afterward, and since I have to fix Aidan's breakfast and lunch, I just don't have the time.

What I will do this morning, though, is put some of the juice in a blender, then run the rest of my Swiss chard through the blender, then mix that concoction - a combination of juice and green smoothie! Yummers!

Right now I'm just playing around with getting more vegetables and fruit in my diet, but I'd like to go on a juice cleanse at some point, where I don't eat any food or have any coffee/caffeine for a number of days.

Just a few days of incorporating fresh juice into my diet I have markedly increased energy. It's wonderful!

Wednesday, March 07, 2012


Wow, I hadn't realized I've been away for so long.
As I've gone along in my life I've explored many things externally through travel, art, living abroad, hiking, etc. Now the final frontier is my own inner workings.

All the self-improvement literature and success-oriented documents, such as Think and Grow Rich, go on about the commentary running in your mind. Control your mind and you have some control over your life! As Dr. Bill Harris says,

Everyone creates, in the moment, four things:
1. Their feelings and other internal states
2. Their actions and behaviors
3. Which people and situations they attract or become attracted to
4. What meanings they assign to what happens around them

Most people do this automatically without seeing how they do it because they aren't aware enough. Awareness creates choice.

And I'll go further to say that having that choice creates happiness, as was discussed with an interview on Anthony Joh's Tokyo Podcast interview with Eiji Han Shimizu on his movie called Happy.

My personal journey has taken me to the East Bay Meditation Center twice a month to practice mindfulness meditation. I've tried meditation in the past without much success, inspiration or comfort. My feet and legs ALWAYS fall asleep and it's incredibly uncomfortable and distracting. 

Photo courtesy of Boon Decor
So in response I recently scored a meditation bench off of eBay for a great deal. Most new ones cost $45 and higher, a price I wasn't ready to pay. So I found a used one for an excellent price, made with hard wood and has excellent quality. It also has rounded legs to tip forward just the right angle. 

Sit on it as you see in the photo and you don't have the pressure on your legs and feet, enabling you to sit longer with more comfort. I wish I discovered this about 15 years ago!

I've also been listening to lots of podcasts about mindfulness meditation and practice in daily life. And I find I'm not nearly so restless as I was in the recent past. I would be dissatisfied at not pursuing a move back to Thailand or not being able to take a holiday somewhere different. I'm a person who regularly traveled and explored different places when I lived in Thailand and now we rarely can travel like that here in the US because it's much more expensive. So I go on hikes instead! :)

Now I'm alright with whatever happens because my adventures are now inner instead of outer.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Waiting for the Right One

I love a good bargain. Who doesn't?

So instead of spending $150 - $200 on a new juicer, I'm holding out on Craigslist to wait for a deal. For example, last week I saw a Breville Juicer that normally retails for $200 on Amazon listed for only $100, used only a couple of times AND it was in my town!

I emailed this person, but he or she never got back to me, so I was too late. I've got an RSS alert set up so that anybody who has a "Breville Juicer" for sale will land in my inbox right away.

I think it's the thrill of the game that's exciting more than anything.

Oh and speaking of Craigslist, reselling my strollers I use for my reviews has worked out fantastic. I just got a new one a few days ago to review, I was just waiting for the rain to clear to take it out for a test drive. Today's the day to do just that!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Experimenting with More Generosity

My family and I are not awash in financial wealth. We get by though and through careful choices we are debt-free and shall remain that way. That being established, we need to give more money to causes we believe in. We just need to give more.

I already donate time to my son's school: two hours per week plus an art lesson once a month. And while that reaps the rewards of a closer relationship with his teacher, I need to practice more dana, or generosity, particularly in the form of cash donations.

Most religions encourage, even require, tithing. Many expect 10% of your income to go toward giving. It is said that you reap what you sow, and it is the law of karma that you get back what you give.

I can't help but think that if we gave more then we'll be better off just knowing we're doing our part to support organizations that reflect our values. Right now we give small donations every now and then such as special occasions or to emergency situations such as the Thai floods or Japanese earthquake. I always felt good afterward, but a feeling always lingered that I could and should give more.

My goal is to give more regularly this year.

Let's see what happens.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Reflections on my Past

I had a vivid dream last night about my first love. I was 17 years old and a new girl in high school with no real friends. So when he came into my life, not only were those feelings exceptionally strong, as teenage love is, but my entire life was wrapped up in him.

So much so that decades later I can still have dreams about him that have profoundly strong feelings. I dreamed he died in an accident and I was communicating with his mother, both of us deep in grief and I was despondent. An absolute wreck.

Why do I still have these feelings? I have no intentions with anybody but my husband and with my first love, well, we're friends on FaceBook and the last time I saw him was at his wedding 4 years ago or so. We chat occasionally on the phone.

But sometimes I have these incredibly emotional dreams about him and I think the significance is not necessarily with him but with the feelings.

So after waking this morning I meditated on the "why" of those feelings and thought about what else was going on in my life and how I can help Aidan become a better success than myself once he becomes a teenager. Looking back, I can see how these circumstances profoundly affected the direction my life took and why I am where I am today. I wrapped myself up in what felt good emotionally because I had no other focus or encouragement, except one little thing: something my dad said.

My dad told us to complete college. He was supportive but didn't otherwise get involved. He said to me and my sisters that we should complete college and he repeated that throughout our high school and college years. I had no direction - no idea what to do or what was interesting, but I knew I had to complete college.

High school became background noise to my boyfriend. I took after school jobs to earn my own spending money. I maintained average grades despite daydreaming, doodling and even cheating to get by.

Now this post is truly NOT a "blame the parents for my problems" screed, it's more a reflection on what happened. I've heard here and there that parents tend to back off their kids once they reach high school level because they look like adults and well, they must know what to do! My parents were pretty hands off with me and my sisters, as long as our grades weren't awful and we didn't get into trouble.

But because they were hands off, I never knew what to explore within school. They never questioned me, that I remember, about what interested me. Mom and dad never encouraged me to pursue a club or outside activity. So I wrapped myself up in my boyfriend and took a job so I could buy nice clothes and go out.

I went to community college and met Melanie while working at Taco Bell, who became my best friend and life from then on was about going out and having fun and boys. Fun and boys, fun and boys with a part time job and school on the side.

My parents had their own stuff to worry about and they never questioned or pressured me. Just stay in school, you'll eventually figure it out.

The fact that I vividly remember my dad encouraging me to finish college proves that teenagers do listen. And I know that if they encouraged me more to pursue a student foreign exchange program or join a debate team or make an appointment with the career counselor or start my OWN business instead of just getting a job, my life would be vastly different. I was a late bloomer and a job drifter, dissatisfied with my jobs (until now) because I lacked direction and put all the energy I had onto my first love and subsequent hedonistic parties well into my 20s.

I don't want that for Aidan. While I don't plan on being a tiger mom, I'm certainly going to be involved, be more nosy about how he chooses to spend his time once he becomes a teenager and encourage him to explore his options with help from me and others who can help him become aware of those options. Join clubs and have after school activities. And understand when he gets wrapped up in girls, especially once he finds HIS first love, but not let her become his entire existence.

And so this is how last night's dream evolved. Lots of introspection of the path my life has taken and how I can improve it for my son who's only still 6. There's no blame, only observation on how I can make my son's life better and understand where I am today and why. It's been an interesting ride.

Monday, January 09, 2012

A better year in 2012

I'm an optimist! What can I say... well, I can say that since the first week of 2012 has gone by, I'm feeling quite good about this year. I think it's going to be better than 2011.

For a huge variety of reasons, there are lots of people who bid 2011 with a good riddance. Someone said maybe it's out of desperation that we hope for something better this year. I don't like to look at it that way. 2011 wasn't horrible, but I still think this year is going to be much better and I'm excited about welcoming it in.

I've been actively sowing the seeds of my business since 2009 and I have faith that all that hard work is going to pay off soon. I've delved into my stroller reviews business with more vim and vigor, producing videos and personal photographs to enhance my articles. I fully intend to be at the top!

In that vein, let me give you a taste of this personalized review that I'm talking about. Here is a review of the Mia Moda Atmosferra stroller, complete with the video review. You can also see the video here or watch it right now:

So here's to a glorious 2012! No resolutions, just hard work with the faith that producing something of good value will return its rewards.