Time is the most precious thing in this world. Make every moment count and live your dreams.
~See Lemons Productive
Random Observation/Comment #452: It’s easy to take shortcuts, but sometimes you just need to sit down and do it.
Q: Why do you make so many lists?
A: Lists are awesome. They don’t need any type of ranking – they just represent easy to digest brain dumps of ideas. I think my brain is just a constant stream of consciousness and when I listen to it, it answers questions in the form of lists. The act of writing a list itself helps me further process the information and remember what’s been reviewed.
Q: What’s the 30 List challenge?
A: Every day, for the next 30 days, I will publish a list of 30 items related to the list name/topic. The writing of the list will be done nightly in one sitting. I may cheat and write the framing of the blogposts ahead of time, but I want to try to reflect all at once.
Q: What are the 30 Lists List?
A: Glad you asked because as Day 0, here’s my first 30 lists within a 30 list list form (I confused myself):
- 30 Favorite photos of 2014
- 30 Happy memories
- 30 Places I want to visit
- 30 Favorite movies
- 30 Things I want to do
- 30 15-minute activities
- 30 Things to be Thankful about
- 30 Interesting people
- 30 Side Projects that Never got Published
- 30 Accomplishments
- 30 Essential items (that I’d spend more money on)
- 30 Favorite Routines
- 30 Favorite Foods
- 30 Questions for Future Clemens
- 30 Pieces of Early Career Advice
- 30 Personal Lifehacks
- 30 Favorite quotes
- 30 Favorite Blogposts
- 30 Favorite Everyday Gadgets
- 30 Things to Teach my Future Kid
- 30 Favorite songs
- 30 Wouldn’t it be cool if…
- 30 Interesting Facts
- 30 Talents I’d Learn if I were stuck in Groundhog Day
- 30 Most Attractive Traits
- 30 Favorite Words/Terms
- 30 Favorite Games
- 30 Favorite Apps
- 30 Favorite Start-up Ideas
- 30 Funniest moments
Feel free to follow along and share your own lists!
Note: My responses will be mostly in list form without explanations. I will probably do another 30 day challenge afterwards that goes into each post and updates it with descriptions/explanations and photos.
~See Lemons Challenge 30 Lists of 30
Random Observation/Comment #436: Poetry is beautiful, but writing poetry and the process behind it is just amazing.
As with all my challenges, I’ll explain it all in an FAQ (and yes, some of my friends asked it this way):
Q: What’s with this #haikueveryday? I see you posting it every day.
A: It started when my friend told me about the famous Hemmingway six word story on a roadtrip up to eat lobster and take wedding photos. The premise is that every good story can be told in 6 words. His most famous being “Baby shoes. For Sale. Never worn.” I was originally going to do a 6 word story every day, but the ones that we thought of all sounded very depressing (and also 6 word stories are really difficult to come up with). I thought if I tried really hard, I could do it, but then people would think I’m in a bad mood (which I usually am not). So instead, I chose haikus…
Q: Why haikus?
A: … Because haikus are awesome. The 5-7-5 syllable structure always makes me count with my fingers, and since I’ve started doing this every day, I’ve thought of more and more succinct ways to explain larger/more in-depth stories. I think it’s just the perfect amount of freedom (no rhyming schemes) and length for a creative summary.
Q: How did you write these haikus?
A: My inspiration comes from my everyday activities, so this #haikueveryday routine actually became my new way of journaling. At almost every part of the day, I was looking for the shortest way to represent the 3 main themes that happened worth talking about. In turn, I usually wound up writing at least 5 phrases that don’t get used. This process for writing these haikus is actually a much better method than what I used to do for keeping my diary. In fact, in the past month, I’ve completely replaced my journaling with just haiku phrases. I’ve found I remember the events easier after I’ve thought about them in different adjectives/verbs/tenses, and they just mean more when reading them. Here were my typical diary thoughts:
- What happened today?
- What did I learn/think about?
- What made me happy?
- What am I thankful for?
Q: What did you learn from all this?
A: There were a few main things that stuck with me:
- Think about problems from all angles. There were many times in the past month where I really wanted to write about the interesting people I met or random ideas I thought about in the shower, but there were just way too many syllables. You’ll need to look stupid counting on your fingers for 10 minutes, but you’ll find just the right way to tell your story. While it may be heresy using an engineering perspective on an artist’s creativity problem, a new angle will always bring new ideas.
- Cut the fat, but not before you cook with it. When cooking any cut of meat, you always want to keep the fat on so you can render it and keep all the juices. Of course you can trim it off afterwards, but that’s when the steak already has all that richness in it. It’s a loose metaphor, but writing a good haiku requires a lot of ideas and versions. If you’re going to try it, make sure you don’t just use the first sentence that comes to mind. Let it all render a bit and think of ways to say it.
- Rules, while annoying, also lead to structure. Rules are restricting – that’s the whole point. The upside is: by reducing the number of possibilities out there, you cause the creative mind to focus. Especially in today’s fast pace/news-headline-reading readership, it’s important to get to the point and be consistent.
Q: What’s next? Are you just going to do this everyday for the rest of your life? Because you’ve set yourself up to fail.
A: I’m thinking about taking this a few levels deeper. I will continue to do my #haikueveryday, but add on #photoeveryday for another 30 days. The photo will add more structure and inspire the haiku. This will allow my haikus to be a little bit more sophisticated (although less diary-driven). After this is completed, I will add on the #100happydays, which will have a photo of something that makes me happy and a haiku to represent that thing. Lastly, I’m considering making it more community driven by writing happy haikus with photos of friends daily.
It will take a little time, but hopefully i’ll become a better haiku writer and mesh all those sources of information together into something more meaningful. Either way, it’s been oodles of fun and kept me engaged.
~See Lemons Love Haikus
Random Observation/Comment #406: Anything with Guinness is delicious.
Recipe: Something stewed – Beef and Guinness Stew
Just like the good old days (2 months ago), I’ve decided to complete those left-out items from my cooking challenge. This one was rather simple. In short, I browned the beef, sweat the onions, and used the tomato paste to scrape all that goodness from the bottom of the pan. Everything else was just throwing it into a slow cooker, adding beef broth, Guinness, chopped potatoes, turnips, and carrots, and then waiting for 5 hours.
- When browning the beef, make sure not to crowd the pan. Cook the side with fat first so you can render it into the butter.
- Don’t clean the pan in between any of the steps. The onions will absorb the beef flavor and the tomato paste will scrape up the rest of the bits.
- Make sure your slow cooker can hold all of the food by adding the liquid to the slow cooker last.
- Buy extra Guinness because Guinness is delicious and you’ll probably have one while eating it
- Buy Guinness from Trader Joe’s because it’s $8 for a 4-pack instead of $15 everywhere else (damn NYC prices)
This stew reminds me of Ireland and good times. I would recommend making it for a small party of 4-5 (or even just yourself and you can eat it with rice or pasta for the rest of the week). The 20-minute prep time is always a plus and if you have a good slow cooker, you can cook this over night.
~See Lemons Eat Guinness Stew
Random Observation/Comment #400: I’m always surprised at how a positive attitude can change everything. Also, Yay on 400 posts!
Just as with all New Year’s Resolutions, this one is going to be a sweeping declaration. Hopefully, this time, I will not fill half of the days as “exception days” as I usually do with my 30 day health/diet challenges. Most of the things I’ve listed here I already do regularly, but it’s nice to put together something to keep track of it.
Here are the things I want to instill into my daily routine to improve my health, happiness, and overall gratitude towards life.
- 365 hours of table tennis in a year – This should be easy 🙂
- Daily stretching – 5 minutes before nightly shower and after exercise
- Exercise 3 days a week (weight free with crunches, push-ups, jumping jacks, planks, and running)
- Mental Health
- Implementing daily nap time – 10 minute power nap
- Daily sleep 6-8 hours – try really hard to keep this
- Daily meditation – focus on breathing for 2 minutes and be in the moment
- Daily Crossword – Shortyz for Android!
- No red meat 4 times a week
- No soft drinks (Seltzer FTW)
- More balanced vegetable and fruit intake – 1 Vegetarian day per week?
- Daily drink 3 liters of water – I need to get better at drinking more water on weekends and when I’m not at work
- Money Saving
- Cook twice a week
- Try a new recipe every 2 weeks (1 in 4 meals, I’ll do a blog post about it)
- Bring lunch twice a week (probably from the leftovers)
- Try a new restaurant every two weeks and write a review – I just like eating
- Connect with someone I haven’t in a long time every day (blog post to come, but essentially I want to help people complete their 30 under 30’s)
I’m in the process of writing an app where I can easily keep track all of this information and create some simple reports off of it. I’m just going to plug it in directly with Google Calendar to keep it all easy. Let’s see how it works out!
~See Lemons Do a Year-Long Challenge
Random Observation/Comment #392: Fitness challenges make a lot more sense when you’re inspired with a group.
Q: I thought you just finished a challenge. What is it now?
A: Despite my efforts to cook somewhat healthy, the 30 Day Cooking challenge left me a little flabby around the edges. I almost expected it to happen, so I certainly jumped on the opportunity to be a part of the “New Leaf Fitness 31 Day Challenge” hosted by a friend from High School. She did all the planning, which I consider the “fun part”, but it’s good to hold to someone else’s standards.
Q: What is this New Leaf Fitness 31 Day Challenge?
A: There are beginner, intermediate, and advanced tracks, and they all involve a series of increasingly difficult goals that involve alternate groups of physical work-outs (e.g. push-ups, sit-ups, squats, jumping jacks, crunches, burpees, high knees, jogging, planks, stretching, etc), dietary restrictions (e.g. days without alcohol, sweets, sodas, processed carbs, etc), dietary musts (e.g. drinking A LOT of water, taking daily multivitamins, eating every 2-4 hours, 3+ servings of vegetables, 3+ servings of fruits, etc), and sleeping 6-8 hours daily. The organizer has provided us with the full calendar schedule, guidance along the way, and has even included bonus daily challenges that are posted in an active group discussion.
I think the key here is the active participation of the members involved in the challenge. The group discussions are truly inspiring, and sharing these daily results really shows how the Nike+ idea of creating a community around goals/achievements can foster healthy community motivation.
Q: We know you. How are you making this challenge one of your own?
A: I actually think the daily communication and additional bonus challenges gives this program a lot of freedom to evolve along the way. I am motivated to continue my normal paced work-out, but I will be measuring a few more things:
- Baseline measurements at the beginning of the challenge (e.g. within 1 minute, # of push-ups, # of sit-ups, # of burpees)
- Mindfulness on daily intake of calories (servings in carbs, red meat, and vegetables)
- Mindfulness on daily intake of liquids (water at higher quantities)
- Eat every 2-4 hours in smaller portions. Do not eat after 9pm.
- Large breakfast, medium lunch, and small dinner
- Removal of sodas and sweets for the 30 days
- Reduced alcohol intake to Friday and Saturdays
- Recorded Nike fuel points / steps taken
- Recorded hours slept
- Daily multivitamins – Yay, gummies!
In general, challenges shouldn’t be about restrictions, but rather an extension of how far one can go. I treat everything as a science experiment, so I like to analyze the results from all angles. The tracking I’ve added above is really just collecting data so the challenges add more value in the long run.
On a personal level, it’s all about what you learn from your experiences and how you can incorporate healthy activities into a normal routine after the challenge is completed.
~See Lemons Start the Fitness Challenge
Random Observation/Comment #391: Start your cooking challenge with the full realization that you will probably gain weight.
The purpose of this cooking challenge was to simply cook more things and host more parties. I wanted to take my cooking hobby to the next level, and I think I successfully did just that. Challenge completed! I didn’t cook every night, but when I did, I had leftovers that fed me for lunch. It was lovely.
- Weekly spending for groceries was approximately $80, which on average, cooked 6 dishes. This fed at least 8 meals for the week (1-2 lunch servings of leftovers for the next day).
- The whole challenge cost around $325 with groceries.
- Only went out to lunch 10 times the entire month (which is better than my normal 20 times (I never bring my own lunch)).
- Only went out to dinner 5 times the entire month (which is much better than my usual 15 times with weekends).
- Overall decreased spending by $30/day. I still spent a consistent amount on table tennis and happy hour beers.
- Saved approximately $800 on food in the month of November (even including the $100 for Thanksgiving). My normal dinner dates for 2-3 nights a week were around $80/night since I usually pay the full bill.
- Contributed food to 6 dinner parties in the month, which only evened out on normal spending because of alcohol purchases (but fed more people)
- When planning the challenge, account for cooking dishes for larger groups. I needed to move around a lot of challenge orders to accommodate parties.
- Plan cooking meals with more variety of appetizers, main courses, alcohol, and brunches.
- The initial costs are high if you don’t have the right fresh herbs (e.g. parsley, thyme, rosemary) and basics. I recommend cooking dishes with similar herbs closer together so you don’t waste these herbs. They dry out quickly. You can also invest in your own potted plants.
- Only pick dishes that you’re really jazzed to cook. Don’t bother with any fill-ins for health reasons because those are the ones that you’ll just push aside. I pushed 6 dishes aside and replaced them because they just seemed way too difficult at the time. Most of these included hand-made ravioli, making my own sushi, baking na’an, or buying Ahi tuna.
- Make your cooking challenge a series of parties instead of individual meals. Cook 3-4 dishes for 8 dinner parties and you’re basically there! It’s also much more fun when you feed more people. I’d host these parties on Tuesday and Thursday nights if possible.
- Cook with someone – it’s a real bonding experience. I loved cooking with my gf because she got the chance to learn how to photograph food. It was something I looked forward to each day because we could dance and have mini food fights.
This was an immensely fun challenge and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I think my next one will have a larger community involved. I mentioned this to my coworkers and they all said “Why don’t you ever bring in leftovers?” You know what? Challenge accepted. Sometime next year, I’ll cook a series of bite-sized things for my co-workers.
What I’ve truly learned from cooking is that challenges are much more fun when shared. This is the main reason why I took the last week to focus on the 3 dinner parties around Thanksgiving. It doesn’t make sense to do things without a community. Your actions seem almost selfish if you’re not in someway including someone else.
Moving forward, I plan to have my challenges be more social in its roots. It’s not just sharing the results of these goals, but rather setting community goals and working towards them as a team.
~See Lemons Love Eating and Cooking
Random Observation/Comment #390: The best meals I’ve ever made have been invented on the spot with the different ingredients I had available. Yay, backpacking!
Recipe: Something on the spot – zucchini and sweet corn stuffing
What do you do when you A) ran out of casserole dishes for making the planned zucchini and corn meal and B) have the last casserole dish filled with extra stuffing? Clearly, the right answer is to add stuffing into the existing recipe.
This is exactly what I did in every sense without any regard for adjusting proportions. I chopped up the zucchini and bacon, and then poured a whole can of cream of corn into the leftover stuffing. From there, a bit of salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper was added by guestimation, and I just hoped or the best as it baked for 35 minutes right after the turkey came out.
- Cook the bacon before baking, or bake at a higher temperature for longer than 35 minutes. I think adding crispy bacon on top first would have worked well.
- Make sure to keep the moisture of stuffing the same or else you get a mushy soup. This means adding less cream of corn.
- Combining a sweet cream of corn with salty bacon is not always bad. Embrace the clash by adding a sweet/bitter alcohol like burbon.
- Not all recipes can be combined, but don’t be afraid to keep experimenting. Good things will come of it!
I wouldn’t say this was a huge success, but I felt I really grew from this experience. This taught me that it’s important to think through your recipes a little bit more before making it. There are certainly ways to turn the whole thing around especially if it’s savory. Maybe I’ll just add mashed potatoes to it next time thicken the texture.
Everything tastes better with mashed potatoes.
~See Lemons Eat Zucchini and Corn Stuffing
Random Observation/Comment #389: Sometimes the creativity and bizarre combinations going into food will make it more appealing for people to try. Other times, you’re just freaking weird.
Recipe: Something ridiculous – Ramen burger
Luckily, the ramen burger was one of those things that everyone saw and had to try. I totally made up most of the recipe. The only thing I learned from the advice in the recipe was that I needed to cook the ramen first and add some egg to make it stick together into a bun. After that, I just used whatever I had with the meal to make it work. For example, because I had extra stuffing, I mixed some stuffing into the cooked ramen. Then, I added egg and separated into little mini bowls. These mini bowls were stacked on top of each other as to flatten the amount of ramen into a bun shape.
The hamburger meat recipe I followed used some of the lemon garlic parsley butter, a bit of pepper jack diced cheese (that I learned from making meatballs), and some cayenne pepper. When cooking, I cooked the two “buns” first with lots of oil to keep the outside crispy. After the first flip, I added the meat patty . Once the noodle buns were done, I flipped the burger and covered for a minute. The noodles took around 3 minutes on each side to brown and become crispy. I just added a bit of cheese and ketchup to complete the whole thing.
- Mix the ramen, stuffing, and egg separately. I imagine putting it all together first will give an uneven number of eggs in each bun. 1 ramen packet was used for every 3 buns.
- Definitely have bowls to flatten the ramen while it’s in the fridge, but don’t press too hard or else it will break it up into pieces. Add saran wrap to make sure this doesn’t happen.
- Flatten the ramen so you have a thin crispy layer. Sometimes a ramen bun that’s too thick will have some inconsistent textures in the middle.
- When cooking the burger, make sure to give it a concave shape (so it doesn’t look like a contact lens). The center will naturally bulge up during the cooking process and make the whole thing flat, rather than having a smaller center surface area being cooked and edges neglected.
- I consider the thinner burgers and buns easier to cook. In fact, I would be interested in making a large ramen burger the size of a pancake. This would probably help with serving it since making 4 separate burgers and cutting them into quarters for everyone to try as an appetizer was a little annoying.
My Mom watched me make this for the first time and she kept asking me “What are you doing?” I had to answer with “It’s a secret”, even though I really had no idea what I was doing. Alas, it turned out rather edible and a great story for all those who tried it. I think having one of these whole by myself would certainly be a meal and a half, but as an appetizer – it was pretty interesting. I’d be curious to see how to make them more bite sized without adding too much more work to the whole process.
~See Lemons Eat Ramen Burger
Random Observation/Comment #388: I love the feeling of hosting a fun party where people loved the food and ended the night fully satisfied. I just wish there were less dishes to do.
Recipe: Making Turkey Lurkey, Gravy, and Stuffing
The recipe I used for the turkey was the one I saw on Gordon Ramsey’s show. I had a few months this year where I spent every day going through his ultimate cooking course on youtube, where I learned to add lemon zest to everything and speak with a British accent and say “mmm.. beautiful” whenever I think I’m doing something right. This time, I put the recipe together exactly as listed except I added some stuffing to fill the rest of the turkey to keep the cut onion and garlic from coming out.
The stuffing was made from butter, chopped onions, diced celery, a bag of stuffing mix, and 3 1/3 cups of water. I decided to use the stuffing mix because I totally forgot to buy bread ahead of time and make it stale. I added more salt, garlic, and fresh pepper for seasoning and stuffed everything into the turkey. The gravy I made followed what my brother did earlier in the week. He minced all the giblets and random stuff included with the raw turkey and then heated it up on low heat. Once cooked, he added some gravy mix. I added some of the bottom juices from the turkey as it sat the 45 minutes for cooling.
As for timing, it took about 1.5 hours to prepare the turkey, 15 minutes in 410 degrees F heat, 2.5 hours in 355 degrees F heat with basting, and 45 minutes to sit and have the juices sink in. I started making gravy, extra stuffing, and mashed potatoes after the turkey was finished.
- The parsley, garlic, lemon butter is the most amazing thing ever. I love the combination of flavors and I actually used the leftovers of this mixture for my mashed potatoes. It was brilliant.
- When the recipe says cover the turkey with butter, really spend the extra 5 minutes slathering it on thick. I loosened all of the skin and stuck little pieces of butter wherever I could.
- Season generously. It’s always good to have extra parsley. I think the extra green color makes the whole thing look more healthy
- Definitely cover the top with bacon. Holy crap, that was the best idea ever and I’m so glad I did it. The bacon that comes from those 3 hours of baking is amazing. I wish I put more around the legs and in every other area possible. I think I just like bacon.
- Add another half of garlic into the center of the turkey. I think it adds the extra flavor to the juices and gravy
- Basting is a must! Invest in the baster so you don’t need to do what I did (which involved moving the turkey out of the pot and pouring out the juices, so I could move the turkey back in and pour the juices over it)
- Definitely let the turkey sit the whole time. It may get slightly cold, but the hotter gravy will heat it up and cold turkey is freaking awesome. The extra time sitting will have it stay moist.
- Don’t get a turkey that’s too big or else it won’t cook as evenly. I had a 12lbs turkey and I thought that was perfect in size for 9 people.
- Always have extra stuffing. That stuff is amazing.
I was pleasantly surprised at how moist this turkey recipe came out. I think the one I made last year was dry and terrible in comparison. It must have been those 3 sticks of butter I jammed into the inside of the turkey and constant basting that kept it all moist and buttery the whole time. Moral of the story – fat makes everything taste better.
Secondly, the timing around the preparation of the turkey dinner is as important as the skill of cooking the meal. It’s extremely important to prepare in an order where all the food stays warm. I would definitely do the gravy last and keep it piping hot since it is the main source of heat to warm up the turkey and mashed potatoes.
Lastly, proportioning when cooking for family and friends on Thanksgiving is never an issue. It’s a given that there will be leftovers and that those leftovers will be eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the next week. Remember to check that you have Tupperware to store all this food and room in the fridge before you start making more than you can handle. Side note: There’s never more mashed potatoes than I can handle.
What a wonderful series of Turkey day dinners. Happy Thanksgivikah!
~See Lemons Eat all the Turkey
Random Observation/Comment #387: I don’t know what it is about curry, but it’s something next to mashed potatoes that I’ll always want to eat. Oh man, I should make curry mashed potatoes.
Recipe: Something with curry – Curried cauliflower
I erred on the side of caution with this recipe because I didn’t want to make anything too over-powering. Because we had a larger portions and I had no milk, we did two cans of cream of chicken, a little bit of mayo, the cocoya paste, a generous helping of curry powder, and some brussel sprouts (because, why not?). After steaming to the right texture, I threw everything into a pan and baked it for 30 minutes. Really simple and easy recipe.
- The cream of chicken soup really adds that extra smoothness to it and works really well with the curry taste
- I think my mixture was way too thick, so next time I’ll be sure to buy some milk instead of using the coconut substitute.
- At the last part of the recipe, it recommended adding some crushed wheat thins. I don’t know how, but these got soggy and didn’t really add to the taste. I thought they’d be like the crunchies you add to the mac and cheese to make it more awesome, but I was disappointed. Maybe it’s because I didn’t use a casserole dish.
- Use a casserole dish. It will probably help cook everything faster.
- Brussel sprouts were a nice little add. I’ll be sure to incorporate it again next time.
This is an easy go-to recipe for large groups. I wouldn’t want to eat this by itself or even pairing with one other thing, but when you’re having a buffet, I think a bit of curried persuasion doesn’t hurt the cause.
~See Lemons Eat Curried Cauliflower