Moving into a new bullet journal + my first experience with a dot grid notebook!

2017-04-05 14.56.30

This is my new bullet journal + my very first dot grid notebook. After spending two ruled notebooks for bullet journaling, I was pretty nervous to use a dot grid notebook for the first time.

(If you are unfamiliar with what bullet journal is, it is a highly customizable journaling system invented by a designer named Ryder Carroll. If you want to know more, view this introductory video or visit this website.)

As you can see in the photo, my new bullet journal notebook is Rhodia Boutique Softcover A5 Dotted Notebook – ORANGE, consisting of 160 unnumbered pages. I don’t know how many months it will cover, but I’m pretty sure that I’ll have to be moving into another notebook sometime in the year.

2017-04-16 18.15.57

I have allocated the first 3 pages for indexing. (I make a lot of mistake!!! lol)
Since this Rhodia notebook is unnumbered, I need to manually number my pages on the bottom right corner.

2017-04-05 14.57.19

This is an example of my monthly page, and also my first attempt of Ryder Carroll’s monthly spread, moving from the traditional grid-view layout (Visit this page for more monthly layouts).
You see the dates and days of the month along the left edge. I have divided my month in two columns to organize my upcoming tasks (first column) and achievements (second column).

From this month, I adopted the method of ‘theme color‘: each month I pick a specific colour to use throughout the month. For April, I picked blue as the theme colour.

(Pens: Tombow Dual Brush Pens (primary), Steadtler Triplus Fineliners 0.3)

2017-04-05 15.23.50

Weekly layout, inspired by Boho Berry. I’m still wondering how to utilize that empty space on the left page…

2017-04-16 18.40.34

Typical daily pages. I know my handwriting is clumsy… (sigh) but I’m try to be better at it. You can see my practice with Faber Castell Artist Pitt pens on the left page (that’s why that portion is written in black)

I try to keep this bullet journal simple and minimal, without unnecessary stickers and washi tapes which made my previous bullet journals trashy…

I hope my first dot grid bullet journaling experience will be successful. In the beginning, I was pretty uncomfortable with the small line spacing, but I’m getting used to it. One thing I love about a dot grid notebook is wider space where I can write much more stuff on one page.

What’s new in my new bullet journal?

  • Ryder Carroll’s monthly spread (break from grid-view layout)
  • Monthly theme colour
  • Minimal decoration

Highlight(s) of dot grid notebook

  • Customizable use of pages
  • More lines

Lowlight(s) of dot grid notebook

  • Small line spacing

Book Review: Lion by Saroo Brierley (Previously published as A Long Way Home)

2017-04-14 01.10.53

I opted for the memoir by Saroo Brierley, instead of going to a theatre to see the movie based on it. After moving to a new city where I need to drive to go anywhere, grabbing a book of my choice became more convenient than catching a latest movie. Also, I also wanted compare the protagonist’s authentic account and the screenwriter’s liberty when I see the movie.

Memoirs written by non-professional writers are easy to follow, but relatively lacks literary effects. I liked Saroo’s natural and plain narration, but the chronological order of the book somewhat downplayed the emotional side of his story, as Saroo’s present life in Australia must have been closer to him psychologically than his early childhood in India before searching for his lost home. The story could have been of more literary value had it taken the structure of frame story, possibly including an opening with fully grown Saroo in Australia reflecting on his origin and distant memories in India. However, lack of literary techniques did not make Saroo’s story any less powerful,  as the series of pure events he experienced were remarkable for their own sake.

His little use of literary techniques doesn’t mean that he did not try to make his story interesting.

I was somewhat skeptical about the lengthy account of getting lost in the train station and the following events leading to his adoption in Australia: How was he able to relive such details of the events that happened 25 years ago? This is the same problem I always have with almost any memoirs: how much can a memoir be authentic? I have no doubt about big chunks of the story, but how many details actually happened? His descriptions of the old man who saved him from the river and the teenage boy who turned him to police sound truthful (as Saroo thanked them several times in the book). On the other hand, his narrow escape from possible abductors was likely to have happened, but there’s room for speculation. Saroo had complete freedom in retelling his story, as well as in making a few more details up to make his story more dramatic and interesting, probably with encouragement or direction of the publisher. This type of possible addition did not require any literary techniques, as Saroo told these events as naturally as the rest of the book. The issue of ‘authenticity of the memoir genre’ must be a big topic for debate elsewhere.

**Spoilers Alert **

In the end, I was happy for Saroo for his incredible luck that always led him into the right direction, including Mrs. Sood, the Brierleys, his Indian friends, Google Earth, and many others.  Having also raised in two cultures, I sincerely agreed with Saroo’s contemplation on his “two homes.”

As I spent more time with my family and reconnected with the place where I’d been born, I thought about the word everyone kept using, including me–“home.” Was that where I was now, or was it where I’d come from?
I don’t know. After being lost, I’d been lucky enough to be adopted by a loving family […] in Australia; I thought of myself as an Australian. I had a family home with the Brierleys and had made my own home in Hobart with my girlfriend, Lisa. I knew I belonged, and was loved, in those places.
But finding […] my Indian family also felt like coming home. […] I was loved here, too, and belonged in a way I’d […] found hard to explain now. This was […]  where my blood was. (p. 220)

He is one of the luckiest adoptees I know, for having found his blood family sincerely welcoming him after so many years. I’ve heard about so many unfortunate stories of fully grown adoptees yearning for their birth parents who would normally refuse to meet them or try to take advantage of them out of poverty. If something had gone wrong in Saroo’s life, he wouldn’t have the happy ending that made his story remarkable. I sincerely wish that his happiness with his “two homes” would last ever after.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book, but my next choice should be something with more lasting effects…

Brierley, Saroo. Lion: Previously published as A Long Way Home.  Movie Tie-In Edition. Penguin Books Canada


My Goals for March 2017!

I can’t believe it’s already the third month of 2017!

In order to start the new month afresh, I have set up a list of goals for March 2017. I decided to take these monthly goals more seriously than the roughly set goals in February.

The most exciting thing of the month is my upcoming trip to Italy during the last week! But I want to complete several challenges and projects before taking off.


Here are my goals for March 2017:

  1. #PlanWithMeChallenge (hosted by @TinyRayofSunshine, @Boho.Berry, @PrettyPrintsandPapers)

    I became interested in this bullet journal challenge hosted by my favourite bullet journalists only last month. I decided to follow the prompts for this month, and my approach will be as follows: I will check the daily prompt, and if it is something I have never tried (e.g. rapid log, etc.), I will search for relevant resources and apply them to my bullet journal. If the prompt is something I have tried or already familiar with (e.g. To-Do, etc.), I will check others’ examples and improve my entries or pages. And if I am proud of the result, I may share it here or through social media.


2. #DoodleWithUsinmarch Challenge (hosted by @alexandra_plans and @christina77star)


I have tried and failed several independent doodle challenges before with no clear guidelines or set of prompts. I almost decided not to take any doodle challenges, but this set of fairytale prompts absolutely intrigued me. So, I’m taking this challenge this month, and I will definitely share the result here!

3. Finish reading Lion by Saroo Brierley  (previously published as A Long Way Home: A Memoir)


This is my currently-reading book, and another book written by a non-professional writer after ‘A Mother’s Reckoning’ by Sue Klebold. I decided to read the book because I thought it would take less time than watching the movie in a relatively distant movie theatre. I’m past the half point now, and thoroughly enjoying it! I will definitely post my review here.

4. Read the Torah (except the Genesis)


This is an appropriate challenge for Lent. I excluded the Genesis because I have read the book for multiple times in the past (but I’ll eventually return to it one day). I have been always curious about what happened after the Exodus, so I’m reading all four books, including the Exodus. I need to complete this challenge anyway before starting a new notebook for my bullet journal.

5. Finish planning for the Trip to Italy & Have a safe trip!

This is the highlight of the month. I spent all February in planning and researching which left me relatively little to do in March other than reserving admissions and packing. I’m a big planning person who needs to plan almost everything before going to a strange place or doing something big like this. Having concluded that planning every second of the trip is nearly impossible, I’m leaving some blank spaces in my schedule aside from the essential attractions such as the Papal General Audience (which I secured the ticket!), Vatican Museums, Uffizi Gallery, and so forth.  So all I’m left to do is reserving admissions to those attractions in order to avoid wasting hours in lines. Stay tuned for my photos!

So these are my ‘major goals’ for March. I have a feeling that I’ll live through March 2017 fuller than ever! I think it’s the strength of planning. In the end of the month, I will share how these challenges went.

My first step in lettering! (first attempt to create a perfect blog title image)

2017-02-25 15.21.12.jpg

I’ve started to practice lettering to make a new title image for my blog.
I was lucky to get these practice sheets from here.
I need to get comfortable with brush pens, which I have been avoiding all my life due to my low confidence in my own handwriting.

The brush pen used on the above practice sheet is the popular FABER-CASTELL PITT ARTIST PEN (B). When I bought the 4-pen pack, I expected the brush pen (B) would be the least used. But it proves itself incredibly useful for writing page titles in my bullet journal (which I will share with you soon!).

The FABER-CASTELL PITT ARTIST PEN is not the only pen I have for lettering. Below are some examples of my lettering practice with ZIG Journal & Title pens.

2017-02-25 15.22.02.jpg




While practicing, I got the feeling that this particular style does not really go with the spirit of my blog to be the title image … I need to try several different styles.

Anyhow, I am proud of my first step in lettering and my progress so far. I will get more supplies and keep trying until I have the perfect title image!

1. Dawn Nicole Designs®: a resourceful blog of Dawn, a handwriting artist. Check out her free printable practice sheets.

2. Pretty Prints & Paper: YouTube Channel of Jessica Chung, one of my favourite bullet journalists and lettering artists. Check out her instructive videos on lettering and pen reviews. She also runs a blog of the same name here.

Book Review: A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold

All I knew about the Columbine tragedy came from the 2002 documentary Bowling for Columbine. Having raised and lived in countries where gun violence is extremely rare, I paid relatively little attention to ‘Columbine Tragedy’ when choosing this book. I approached A Mother’s Reckoning, a bestselling memoir of the mother of one of the shooters in the Columbine massacre, purely as a book about parenting.


When a horrifying massacre happens, my prayers go to the perpetrator’s family as much as to the victims’. No one would raise a kid to be a mass killer. How could they live the rest of their lives with such guilt?
I believe Sue Klebold was a good mother who truly loved her son Dylan. I believe Sue gave and taught her son everything to be a good person, but it was not enough to keep Dylan from killing others and himself.Why?


Sue’s story was a series of her failures to recognize Dylan’s secrets through his attempts to conceal them. My question was this: why did she fail to detect his secrets, despite all the signs he showed? He got into trouble at school multiple times and even committed a crime to be arrested by police. Throughout these events, Sue failed to identify and resolve the fundamental problem with Dylan that led him to the massacre. I don’t hold her accountable for the tragedy, but my final impression of Sue was an ineffective disciplinarian who didn’t have the power to prevent any further delinquencies of her child. Simply put, she was clearly NOT in power over her relationship with her son. Dylan was in control of the relationships with his parents and that was, in my view, what enabled his deviance. Despite Sue’s best efforts as a good parent, Dylan was free from any authority that could have imposed a clear moral direction on him.  She clearly didn’t have any power over Dylan’s thoughts and behaviour.


The below scene best illustrates the abnormal power structure of the relationship between Dylan and Sue:


… I tried to get him to talk about himself, but Dylan answered my questions as briefly as possible, then asked me about my job and my life. He was so adept at listening that I did not see how skillfully he turned the focus of the conversation away from himself.  Before our pancakes were cold, I was babbling about my artwork, my job, and my dreams for the future without recognizing how deftly he had shielded his inner life. (202)


Notice how easily Sue was manipulated by Dylan’s attempt to keep her away from his thoughts. Dylan was controlling the conversation, not Sue who should have been in command as the elder and lawgiver.
Maybe it was simply the matter of Dylan’s and Sue’s own personalities that determined the nature of their relationship. Maybe Sue was too benevolent by nature or Dylan was too self-reliant to be governed by anyone, including his parents. But I couldn’t help thinking that if Dylan had been put under a strong direction and guidance, or had a positive role model he could look up to, he wouldn’t have committed such a crime. Sue claims she gave the best moral lessons she could, but clearly they didn’t stick to Dylan’s mind. The scene following Dylan’s arrest illustrates how Sue’s moral lessons were just empty words to Dylan:


…Appealing to his empathy, I asked him how he’d feel if someone stole from him. “Dylan, if you follow no other rules in your life, at least follow the Ten Commandments: thou shalt not skill, thou shalt not steal.” I paused to consider which of the other commandments might have relevance, and then decided to stop haranguing him. “Those are rules to live by.” 
 He said, “I know that.”
 We sat in silence for a little while. Then I said, “Dyl, you’re scaring me. How can I be sure you’ll never do such a thing again?” He said he didn’t know[.] (196)


In this particular scene after perhaps the most serious misconduct of her child before the massacre, Sue was not teaching or disciplining her child; She was practically begging. I don’t think Sue’s mere quoting of the Ten Commandments had any effect on Dylan. This scene is a clear illustration of Sue’s failure to discourage Dylan to participate in any future crimes. I think Sue’s biggest failure was letting Dylan have the power over their relationship that basically enabled him to ignore everything she had taught him.


I respected Sue’s honesty and courage, but concluded that her perspective is limited to fully comprehend Dylan’s true motives. Maybe Sue was the least capable person in the world of seeing him objectively; after all, he was her own child. She is still struggling to understand her child, and probably will be so for the rest of her life.


I’m not yet a parent yet, so I might be more capable of emphasizing with Dylan than Sue. Parents may give so much to their children, but the children may not benefit from them. I feel sorry for Dylan for not caring to be a proud son.
Having a child of my own is one of my dreams. A Mother’s Reckoning taught me that it takes a lot more than love and care to successfully raise a child.

Klebold, Sue. A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy. New York:Crown Publishers, 2016.

Favourite Quotes on Solitude

I consider myself fortunate to know the beauty of solitude. Most people I know are either uncomfortable or fearful of being alone, with no ideas or resources to entertain themselves. In contrast, I have always preferred solitude to being surrounded by people, which seemed a weakness or something to be frowned upon.  It was not until recently that I have finally came to accept my natural comfort in being alone as a powerful strength.

Solitude is perhaps the best state of being to be productive and creative, and I’m grateful for many great artists and writers who appreciated the power of solitude. I searched some of the quotes on solitude and here are some of my favourites:

I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.

Henry David Thoreau

This specific excerpt of Thoreau’s well-known reflection seems one of the most frequently quoted lines on solitude.

Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is richness of self.

May Sarton


I might be alone, but I’m never lonely. 

Megan Hart

I love these quotes for putting the contrast between solitude and loneliness so beautifully and strikingly.

Solitude is a chosen separation for refining your soul. Isolation is what you crave when you neglect the first. 

Wayne Cordeiro

This beautiful quote reminds me of my younger years when I used to shut myself from others. It also explains why they did not welcome my preference for being alone. I used solitude as a means of escape, rather than ‘refining soul.’

If you’re idle, be not solitary; if you are solitary, be not idle. 

Samuel Johnson


I’d love to show this quote to my retiring elders who will eventually find so much time alone.

Solitude is the soil in which genius is planted, creativity grows, and legends bloom; faith in oneself is the rain that cultivates a hero to endure the storm, and bare the genesis of a new world, a new forest.

Mike Norton

I think this is the most powerful quote I’ve seen on the power of solitude in creativity.

I’m aware of the ongoing debate on the relationship between solitude and creativity, but I believe that my comfort in solitude will be the main ingredient of my future ability to create something great.

Chocolate Swiss Roll for Valentine’s Day


I made this Chocolate Swiss Roll cake for Valentine’s Day.

Recipe can be found here. I used half-sized strawberries and whipping cream.

Here are several things to improve:

  • Too much whipping cream. It was difficult to roll the cake cleanly into a good shape. The (other) recipe said 400ml, and I used 250ml, which was still too much. 100ml should be enough.
  • Strawberries were too big. Chop them into bite size.

I love whipping cream, but I always fail to use the right amount! It’s always messy and excessive. I always had residual cream with which I didn’t know what to do.  I was so determined to use up all cream this time, but some of them eventually flowed out of the cake with several pieces of strawberries.

All things considered, I was generally happy with how it turned out.


I’ll make a better roll cake next time!