Updated 5 words

A few years ago I wrote a blog post about an article by Nora Ephron, in which she and her friends describe themselves using only 5 words, and how those words change over time.

I think this was right after I had attended Dev Bootcamp, and my 5 descriptive words were “feminist, maker, married, evolving, hopeful”. Now it’s been 2 years since that blog post, and my words have changed a little.

Now I would describe myself as “dependable, adaptable, loving, ambitious, feminist”.

Why did I choose those? Well I’m still a feminist, but I consider that more of a given and less of something that I need to scream out loud so I moved it to the end. Maybe I’ll drop it in a few years to make room for things which become more important to me.

I still make things, but I don’t really associate with the DIY-maker culture (at least, I don’t associate with the way that culture manifests itself in San Francisco) so I bumped “maker” from the list.

I’m still very happily married, but after 5 years I feel like I’ve kind of gotten use to the newness of my marriage and settled in for the long-haul. Like feminism, I no longer feel like I need to shout it out loud, so I replaced it with “loving” because I feel like it better describes me as a person and includes not only my relationship with my husband but also with my friends and family as well.

“Evolving” and “hopeful” were very much reflecting the time period in which I wrote the post. I had just graduated from DBC, was out of work, and trying to keep myself motivated. In that same way, “adaptable” and “ambitious” are applicable to some of the situations I find myself in now.

I also went with “dependable” because that is a constant in my life. With some exceptions, I tend to be the steady rock that my loved ones can count on. That’s not the case 100% of the time, but it’s often enough that I felt like I should include it here.

I’d like to keep doing these posts every couple of years to get a feel for how I’ve changed.


Other words that I considered: sunflower, anxiety, real-fucking-tired.

How do you stay motivated?

There was a discussion recently regarding how to inspire and maintain the motivation to work toward your goals versus creating discipline within yourself to work no matter how you’re feeling that moment. While I appreciate the idea of just being a rock-solid, unflappably disciplined person, I feel like whenever I try to go that route I end up creating half-assed shoddy work and resentment toward that goal. 

Take weight-loss for example. On the one hand, I’ve been trying to use discipline to create the habit of going to the gym 5 or 6 times a week. Sometimes that means I go when I really, really don’t want to exercise and just walk for 30 minutes on the treadmill, because a half-assed workout is better than no workout at all. On the other hand, I try to inspire motivation within myself by making a Pinterest board filled with clothing that I want to wear which are only available in the next size down. I distract myself from the process of running by creating upbeat playlists and picturing myself as a dancer/lead singer/guitarist/drummer for the song I’m listening to, which pushes me to run faster and work harder. 

Motivation is a way to trick myself into working harder and feeling good about it, whereas discipline is a way of forcing myself to do a task even if it’s not done well. Motivation leads to me creating and working on side projects that I’m passionate about. Discipline leads to me brushing my teeth every day and folding the clean laundry before it wrinkles. 

I guess I need both to reach my goals, but motivation always seems like the harder one to nurture.  How do you inspire motivation to work toward a goal? 

Here’s what has worked for me so far:

  1. Write down why you want to achieve your goals and review it everyday, not just when you’re losing steam. Example: I want to improve my health so that I can take fewer pills each morning. I want to write another chapter because it’s important to me that this story is told.
  2. Figure out how to associate something you like to do with something you need to do. Example: I love to dance and sing so I will lip sync to my karaoke playlist while I’m running and maybe try a Zumba class. I will drink a special chai tea only when I sit down to write.
  3. Know that even baby steps are still steps in the right direction. Take it easy on yourself and don’t worry if the motivation doesn’t come to you. Example: Today I’ll just take a little walk to clear my head instead of really pushing myself to burn a certain number of calories. I will revise and edit my writing,  and maybe add a sentence or two. 
  4. Celebrate how far I’ve come and try to treat myself so that I associate hard work with positive rewards. 

I’d love to hear what motivates you and how you achieve your goals! Let me know!

Quinoa for breakfast

One unfortunate side effect of eating healthier is the inability to bake unhealthy things like cookies and cakes. I love baking as a stress relief/relaxation tool, but I just can’t stop myself from tasting the batter and testing the icing (not to mention eating the baked goods straight from the oven). So I’m trying to fulfill my desire to bake with healthier alternatives like oatmeal and quinoa. 

I have a recipe for baked oatmeal from back when we lived in Scrimshaw house. 

And although it’s less baking and more stovetop cooking, here is my recipe for a breakfast quinoa that hits my sweet tooth just right.



1 cup quinoa

2 cups almond milk (unflavored)

1 tsp vanilla extract

Toppings such as honey, brown sugar, banana, strawberries, raspberries, chocolate chips, shredded coconut, raisins, cranberries, slivered almonds or chopped walnuts.


Bring the almond milk to a simmer in a small saucepan. Add the quinoa and partially cover, simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in the vanilla extract, remove from heat and cover for 5 more minutes or until most of the milk is absorbed. 

Dish the quinoa into a bowl and add whatever toppings you like. I went with banana, strawberries, slivered almonds, a dollop of honey and shredded coconut.


Orange and Quinoa salad

So Kevin and I are trying to eat more vegetables, which means I’m focusing more on cooking vegetarian recipes with sometimes a little meat on the side. We’re not doing Paleo or any other fad diet, just trying to be healthier in general.

We’ve been on this track since mid-January which means I have now completely exhausted my usual recipes and am looking for new and exciting things. In particular, I’d like to learn how to cook things that I’ve never cooked before. Things like rutabaga.

There’s an old joke in my family that goes back to me when I was just wee-little-Erin, sitting in a grocery store cart, reading the signs in the produce section. I sounded out a word and asked my dad “What’s a rutabaga?” He said “You’re a rutabaga” which made little-me laugh and I never got a real answer before from then on, that was our joke. Fast forward to early-thirties-Erin who still has no freaking idea what the hell this (fruit? vegetable? fungus?) thing is but is feeling adventurous and wants to give it a shot.

We have a bunch of produce markets in our area, plus a weekly farmer’s market, so there are plenty of opportunities to pick up something that seems weird to me, google it, and then make it for dinner.

That’s also why I bought a cookbook from Williams Sonoma (I know, pricey as hell, but I love their books!) which should teach me to cook all kinds of vegetables this year. Now don’t worry, I’m not going to start one of those “Watch me do a thing for a year” blogs like the Julie/Julia Project (warning, that archived website is formatted all funky) or My Year of Living Bibically (which just made me feel awful for the author’s wife).

No, I don’t have the time or the patience to write about myself every single day for a year. Instead, I’ll continue to post on my whenever-I-get-around-to-it schedule, as usual. It just might be a bit more cooking-heavy than it has been in the past.

Anyway, enough about all that. This post is supposed to be about my take on a California Quinoa salad which uses navel oranges instead of mangos because mangos are annoyingly hard to cut up and also probably not currently in season. I pulled from this recipe from Jo Cooks and just swapped in oranges for mangos and sprinkled a bit of goat cheese on top. That’s it! Easy-peezy!

The colors on this dish are pretty spectacular and most of the ingredients were raw, so it all came together in about 15 minutes. Kevin and I both liked it and next time we might try it again with mandarin orange slices instead of chopped navel orange slices.

Very veggie comfort foods

Kevin and I are trying to eat more vegetables (our goal is to have half of every plate covered in veggies) but there are times when I really miss eating certain foods, especially spaghetti, pizza, and mac and cheese. 

I’m still working on the mac and cheese (don’t try to tell me that cauliflower is a good substitute. Cauliflower is best prepared by throwing it in the compost bin and eating something else) but I did find some good substitutes for spaghetti and pizza. It’s not perfect, but it scratches that itch. 

Firstly, I followed this blog post for Julia Child’s eggplant pizzas.

They were pretty damn good, but I mean it’s hard to mess up cheese and marinara. One thing I would change would be to peel the eggplant as the skin got a little bit tough. Also my broiler wasn’t working so I just stuck the pizzas back in the oven to melt the cheese which worked fine. 

The second thing I made was zucchini spaghetti. Kevin bought us a spiralizer so that we can cut vegetables into pasta-like shapes. It works really well and results in long strings of green zucchini pasta which I prepare by tossing it in a sauté pan with a little olive oil, black pepper, and oregano for about 3 minutes and serving with tomato sauce. 


The results were bright, vibrant vegetables that took up almost the entire plate (no substitute for mozzarella cheese, thank you very much) and tasted not exactly like pizza and noodles, but not bad either. Highly recommended for people doing gluten-free, low-carb, Whole30 or just trying to eat more veggies. 

The water glass

Sometimes I imagine myself as a huge glass of water.

When I interact with other people, even just making small talk, the water level is reduced a little. It’s like people are taking sips of the water just by being around me.

Some people take more water than others, even if they don’t mean to.

When I meet someone new and they want to know more about me, they ask me questions. Sometimes it feels a little like an interview. I try to turn the questions around as much as possible to give them space to speak. I like it better when they do most of the talking. When I do most of the talking, the water level plummets.

If I’m trying to be charming and interesting and engaged in whatever it is that I’m doing, the water level plummets. I’ve found that I can usually be charming for about 2 hours maximum. If I’m just friendly and a little quiet, I can stretch it to 4 hours.

Once the glass is empty, I need to leave. Immediately. No time to say goodbye or make plans for the future, the glass is empty so I gotta boogie.

I try not to let the glass empty too quickly, so when I’m at an event like a conference or a party, I take breaks. I hide in a corner with a drink in order to give my hands something to do. I stare at my phone. I people-watch. I do breathing exercises, when I can remember them. I try to refill the glass but it’s a very slow process and there’s never enough time.

Inevitably, the glass gets low, my internal warning system goes off, and I ignore all of this because I want to stay out, stay with my friends, and keep having fun. I’m the screaming toddler who doesn’t want to leave the playground.

Then suddenly the glass is empty. Then I need to leave.

So I throw cash on the communal table for my drink (no time to wait for the check), wave goodbye to the person sitting next to me, and try not to literally run out of the place.

When I get home, I either need to sleep or cry. Not because anything is particularly upsetting, but because I’m just so drained that I can’t take it anymore. I feel frustrated and ashamed of myself.

Another option is taking to Kevin.

Kevin is the only person on the face of this planet who makes me feel like the glass is being refilled. When I’m with him my shoulders relax. My breathing becomes deeper and slower. I am safe.

Tourist in my Town: Baker Beach

This past weekend I went on a run to Baker Beach. It was only my second time running through the Presidio and I went fairly early on a Sunday morning.

Baker beach is gorgeous! It’s less windy than Ocean Beach and has a direct view of the Golden Gate bridge.

People were walking along the beach, some were playing fetch with their dogs, and it wasn’t at all crowded.

It also much closer to my apartment than Ocean Beach, so I can jog there (side note – I am the universe’s slowest runner) in about 20-25 minutes which is more doable on a day when I have other stuff going on.

There’s a parking lot nearby, but I’m not sure how crowded it gets later in the day (I was there around 9-10am and it was empty) or on warm days.

Also, it was a chilly morning so everyone was wearing jackets and hoodies, but Baker Beach is considered a clothing-optional beach, if you’re looking for someplace to get an all-over tan. The park website says “The northernmost end of Baker Beach is frequented by clothing-optional sunbathers.”



Spring Capsule Wardrobe

A friend of mine introduced me to the idea of a capsule wardrobe and it sounded really interesting to me. I like the idea of getting rid of or putting away most of my clothes, leaving a series of items that I can mix together, and having fewer choices in the morning when I’m picking out what to wear.

The trouble is, most of the pins, blog posts and tutorials that I’ve seen online are for professional workplace attire (which I do not need to wear as my office is quite casual) and comprised of mostly seperates (and I mostly wear dresses).

Plus I live in San Francisco where the weather stays pretty mild year-round. Sometimes the temperatures dip down into the mid-forties in winter and spike into the mid-seventies in October (or sometimes even up to eighty degrees!) but you don’t need a heavy winter coat or shorty shorts (unless you pair the shorts with tights) so my wardrobe is not super diverse.


Dresses in my closet

Dresses in my closet


The first thing I did was open my closet doors and pull out anything made from heavy fabrics like wool or velvet. Then I removed anything that screamed “fall colors” like burnt orange, emerald, plum, and any jewel-tones. I pulled out my rack of scarves and removed anything heavy or bulky. I have a lot of neutral tops in black and grey so I took out all but two. I also pulled out all of my fancier dresses except one.

This left me with four tops, two skirts, a pair of jeans, seven dresses, two jackets and two sweaters in neutrals and spring colors like pink, yellow and green. I think that’s a good starting point.

What’s in my spring capsule wardrobe?

  • Yellow A-line skirt with eyelet hem
  • Pink pencil skirt with a tulip hem
  • Black collared blouse
  • Black eyelet tank top
  • Pink three-quarter sleeve blouse
  • Teal paisley chiffon blouse
  • Dark wash straight leg jeans
  • Black and white polka dot dress
  • Yellow cotton A-line dress
  • Green-print A-line dress
  • Chambray faux-wrap dress
  • Teal skater dress
  • Lemon-print peplum dress
  • Yellow and black print fancy dress
  • Denim jacket
  • Olive green jacket
  • Yellow cardigan
  • Black cardigan
  • Leggings and tights for cold days




My plan is to put everything else into the other closet and see how I do with fewer choices. I’ll post my findings in a few months!

Have you done a capsule wardrobe? Did you like it or was it too restricted? Did it stop you from buying new things?


Update 3/8/2016: Things I’ve learned about my own personal style

  1. I don’t wear skirts. I own skirts. I like making skirts. But the only skirts I ever wear are maxi skirts and that’s only when I’m feeling too lazy to wear pants. Time to donate all of my skirts and buy a few more maxi’s.
  2. Certain tops just don’t flatter my figure. Drop-waists, embellished shoulders (aka butterfly or flyaway sleeves) look terrible on me. Also most button-up tops gape at the bust so I rarely wear them. I’ll keep one flannel and one chambray top but other than that, I’m cleaning house.
  3. I have too many “fancy occasion” dresses. I really just wear the same 2 dresses whenever I’m going out for dinner or drinks with my friends, and if there’s a really fancy thing like a wedding, it’s more fun to buy a dress that specifically fits that occasion. Luckily my local YMCA is collecting dresses for the Princess Project so I gave them a few of the nicer ones and then donated the rest.
  4. I don’t have enough exercise clothes. Now that Kevin and I are trying to be healthier together, we’re going to the gym 5-6 times a week. I have exactly 3 sports bras and 4 pairs of exercise pants. We also don’t have access to a washer or dryer, and I only go to the laundromat once a week, so it’s off to Target to buy some more cheap yoga pants and I also get to order another Helixia bra.
  5. Greens and blues look best on me, but I really love the color yellow. After pairing down my closet, there’s a lot of different colors staring back at me. Greens, blues and teals make up the majority. That makes sense as my hair color changes often, but I usually stick with warm reds, oranges and pinks for the most part, which complement clothing in cooler colors. My favorite pieces are all bright, sunny yellows which also makes sense when Karl the Fog has us socked in for several days and I’m craving sunshine.
  6. I have way too many scarves and bags. Good lord why do I have all of these? I’ll just keep the few that I usually wear, plus one for colder weather. I’m not sure what to do with the bags as most of them are pretty beat up. Maybe the community thrift store on Valencia Street will take them?

WTF is Vagrant?

Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 2.12.09 PM

My desktop background is so festive!

Continuing on with my learning about virtual machines and containers, I picked up a book on Vagrant and am learning more about how to easily spin up a virtual machine on my laptop.

Previously, I had set up a virtual machine on my work laptop using VMware but as a beginner, it was a lot of pulling teeth. Also it is currently not working and I have absolutely no idea why. Vagrant is supposed to be easy to set up, but as a non-dev I tend to take the word “easy” with a grain of salt and a great big eye-roll (I also do the same with “simple”, “quick” and “beginner-friendly”).


PSA: Everything is quick and easy when you have 10+ years experience.

Vagrant is an open-source tool for building development environments in a virtual machine. It lets you choose an operating system (as opposed to containers which use the same kernel as the host system, so you can’t run a Windows container on a Linux machine), lets you modify the RAM and CPU and lets you share folders across machines.

Vagrant use to be distributed as a Ruby gem, but is now an installation package that you can download. You’ll also need to download a provider, such as VirtualBox, VMware or use Amazon’s EC2. I’m going to use VirtualBox because it’s free and most of the examples I’ve found either online or in the book I bought assume that I’m using VB.

Tip: When in doubt, always use the software/tool with the best documentation and most examples/tutorials available. You can always deviate from the norm and customize your tools later once you fully understand them. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you to use something new and shiny if it has zero documentation and the only online help you can find is a half a dozen questions on Stack Overflow.

I followed the instructions, downloaded VirtualBox and Vagrant, initialized a 32-bit Ubuntu VM using my Terminal and the documentation, and used “vagrant ssh“ to drop into the SSH console in my newly created VM.

I played around in that sandbox for a bit,  grabbed the sample VM for Go.cd (the continuous delivery software that I support), created a new directory on my host machine, and did another “vagrant up“. After it finished downloading the box, I went to http://localhost:8153/go/pipelines and played around with Go.cd without worrying or caring about breaking stuff.

So even though I’m still a beginner, I found this tool to be surprisingly easy to use. I like that I can spin up a new machine whenever I need one, halt it or tear it down as I please, and I like that any folders that I create on my VM will be created on my host machine too so that I can keep track of them.

And because every time I scratch the surface of one thing, I discover 10 more things that I don’t know, here are some additional things to learn.

More things that I need to study:

  • Chef
  • Puppet
  • EC2
  • get more familiar with shell scripts

Thanks for reading, except for Vanessa because I know she always skips over my technical blog posts. Don’t worry girl, I’ve got a good one scheduled for Saturday that isn’t techy at all! :)