Artist Spotlight: Laovaan on YouTube

Shalom, Internet:

It’s time for another Artist Spotlight! Meet Laovaan, a YouTube user who speed paints watercolor portraits, manga drawings, and digital art. His work’s pretty awesome.

3 weeks ago, he released the embedded video below discussing his struggles about learning art in the classroom.

I’d like to encourage you guys to listen to this former art student’s experience. Did any of you come across the same level of criticism as him? What are your opinions on “studying” art in school? What does the word “art” mean to you?

Support his work on his Patreon, his Etsy, and his DeviantArt!

Have a great week!



A fun and busy 3 day weekend WITH LINDAAAAHHH

So this past weekend was Memorial Day weekend and that means a 3 DAY WEEKENDD!!!!

Original, the Schmucks and I were going to go to Monterey Bay to visit a friend down there, but things came up here and there, so we postponed it.

But that leaves me with plenty of time to do other things, and that I did.
It was a super fun and super busy weekend. I think I am done driving for a bit though.



I woke up early to go to Mahoroba because I was going to visit my boyfriend’s family for the 2nd time, and needed something to persuade them to like me.
Since I know they love food, I thought Japanese pastries/bread would be a good bet since I had a feeling they haven’t had something like that before.
I got a lot of bread guys….my car smelled so nice within the 1 hour I drove to their house.

I got my usuals – Kobe cream, curry, yakisoba, croquette, the whipped cream with a strawberry and red bean paste.
But before my eyes…..WAS THE CREAM PUFFS!!!
I am never up early enough to get these and mannnnnn I made sure I got some.
You can only get cream puffs early in the morning and you are limited only 5 in your purchase.

Behold the puffs:


Anyway, I got my breads and head out to Hercules.
I got there fine, and the moment I dropped off the bread to his family, half of it was disappeared that instant haha!

So my boyfriend and I went to Berkeley and it was a very nice change in weather.
Sacramento, at the time, was super hot and to step foot into Berkeley with cooler temps and a breeze. It was amazing.

Our first stop was Artichoke Basille. It is a pizza joint that smells amazing!
They have some unique flavors of pizza. I don’t like artichoke in anyway, but it was recommended to me and it is one of their specialties, I ended up getting the artichoke cream sauce pizza and my boyfriend got the lasagna (a newer addition) pizza.
I liked it. The artichoke wasn’t overpowering, probably because of the cream sauce.
I tried the lasagna one, as well and it was good, but then again I also love lasagna haha.

The price per slice is a little over $4, so it does seem expensive, but these slices are HUGE!
It was bigger than my face, and I was full for most of the day. So it is a good price, in my opinion.

We finished lunch and was going to head to Daiso, but we got sidetracked with Games of Berkeley. This place is FULL of board games. There are more well known ones and some indie ones. It was a very cute store and they had some games out on display for you to try out.
We browsed, played, and explored and headed out to Daiso before the car meter runs out.

Daiso was a pretty cramped, but because it was full of people, but full of stuff.
We just went up and down the aisles looking at what was there. I was tempted to get a gel pad and cooling towel to prepare myself for Sac summer, but decided against it. But I did purchase extra long chopsticks for cooking.

We headed back to the car and headed to Uji Time.
So this was the one place that I really wanted to try out when I first heard about it, and I finally got to!
They share a store with Vampire Penguin, a shaved ice joint.

Uji Time only has 4 flavors – tofu, matcha, lavendar, and black sesame.
I told the cashier it was my first time there, and he let us try the different flavors.
I was very surprised that the tofu flavor actually tasted really good!

So this place has a small menu. You can get a regular cone with two flavors (or one if you want), a taiyaki cone with up to two flavor ice cream, a parfait with lots of toppings included, or mini taiyaki bites.

I made up my mind before trying the flavors, that I wanted matcha and black sesame taiyaki cone.
I said that it would be great if they had red bean paste at the bottom of the bottom, and oh man did it!! It was a great surprise and would explain why the taiyaki cone was a bit heavy.
They put the red bean paste on the bottom of the cone, then put black sesame in the middle, and matcha on top.
My boyfriend got a lavender parfait and that was delicious as well.
I am definitely going back to try the tofu flavor fully.

For my cone and the parfait, it was about $11. Pricey, but I wanted to try it.
(There is also an Uji Time in Japantown in SF, just a heads up.)

Here is a pic of my taiyaki cone:


We had some time left over in the car meter, so we just briefly explored downtown Berkeley and grabbed some coffee before heading back to the car and back to Hercules.

We ended up watching Kubo and the Two Strings, since my boyfriend hasn’t seen it and is really into animation.
After the movie, we walked his dog Snow along the trail behind his house.
The trail curves around a bit, but has plenty of sunny spots and shady spots. It is pretty ideal for a jog or even a dog walk.

My impression of Hercules is that it is a small quiet town, similar to Davis, but even quieter because it isn’t a college town.
You do have the ocean view and the breeze. Temperature is cooler than Sac, but not by too much.
But honestly, a very relaxing town to be in and seems safe enough.

After heading back to his house and chilling a bit, I went home.


This day was a very tiring day, but totally worth it.
Originally, my sister and I planned to visit my brother in SF, to give him some homecooked meals and to bring back whatever he didn’t need home.
But since he works from 9am to 5pm, we had to kill some time.
My mom took that day off to join us, while my dad took care of the shop.

The itinerary was Sutro BathsLittle Henry’s, and Serramonte Galleria.

So we left Sacramento at about 10am, to head to SF.
We took a detour through San Rafael because traffic on the main road was crazy bad.
The scenery was nice, but man did the lanes get so narrow the closer we got to SF, once over the bridge.

But we got the Sutro Baths fine and got really lucky with parking!

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We did get to go down to Sutro Baths because my mom said she would not be able to get back up, so we just walked along the beach on the sidewalk and enjoyed the cooler temps!

(On a side note, when I told my dad we were going here, he said that I should never take my mom too close to beaches here since they are haunted and may people were dragged into the sea by these spirits. He wasn’t sure what Sutro Baths was, but he mentioned that once he and his friends were are a cape or something near the Cliff House, and a spirit grabbed his friend’s leg to trip him. He always banged his head really hard on the concrete but luckily, my dad and friends caught him in time. When I told my mom, she said it was total bs and my dad was making up stories haha.)

We got hungry, so we decided to visit a restaurant my dad’s side of the family frequented a lot when they use to live in the area, called Little Henry’s – or how my mom calls it ‘Little Hangry.’

My mom was escorted up and down hills by my sister:

At this point, I don’t mind driving to and around SF.
But I absolutely abhor the pushy and no signalling and rude drivers and THE TIME IT TAKES TO FIND PARKING OMGGGGG!!!

Anywho, we got our food and some food to go for my dad. The place is pricey, but my mom really wanted to go there and they did have Vietnamese waitresses and had an option for no meat, since my mom is vegetarian.
We tried to get boba at Purple Cow…but what kind of boba place doesn’t have taro… so we decided against it.

So because I parked on a hill, my mom decided she was done walking for the day, and had me, and only me, go up the hill to fetch the car and pick her up haha. Leave it to my mom to be done with exercising.

We drove to Stonestown Mall to pick up my aunt before heading to Serramonte Galleria.
It’s been forever since we’ve been to this mall, that my family use to go to allllll the time when we were little.

Parking wasn’t hard to find, but I was super happy to find an 85C Bakery.
We got some pastries for my dad, because we promised to bring something back. LOTS OF TARO THINGS! And a guava smoothie for my aunt, and mixed berry green tea for me.

My sister, aunt, mom, and me:


We walked around the mall and got things for my mom for a couple hours. Just killing time before going to my brother’s place.

We took my aunt home and chilled a bit with my 3 youngest cousins for half hour.

The road to my brother’s place is SUPER HILLY! I was surprised Suzie (my car) could handle it, but then was scared she might roll down the hill…

So I finally picked up my big baby of a TV (YAY FOR GAMING ON A BIGGER SCREEN AND GREAT FOR MOVIES!). We rested at my brother’s a bit before headed out and home.

Here we are in all our glory (wished my dad would’ve just closed shop and joined, but oh well:
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The drive home wasn’t so bad. My sister sleeps the WHOLE way to and from SF….note to self, never have her help you navigate or anything…

We got home and I’ve never been so tired in such a long time, but it was totally worth it and I would’ve mind doing it again…just gotta rest for a bit and not drive for a while.


This is my relaxing, make me sister do everything because I am tired, day.
I just drove my mom to Michaels and Target to get the things she needed and wanted and just chilled at home.
We had seafood hotpot with my family and some of my uncles and that’s about it.

All-in-all, it was a really fun weekend despite all the busy and driving.
It is always nice to spend time with family. Though I did learn that I have a new pet peeve, which is when I am driving and people talking at the same time to me…It confuses and annoys me.. so I apologize beforehand if I am snappy.

I hope you all had a great and relaxing 3 day weekend!

I do have another blog entry in the making, but will not post or start it until I completely finish what I am making.

Until next time!


Ghosts on the Waterfront: Suisun City

ghost buddies.png

To me, Suisun City was just a small town you stopped by to get gas in before continuing to head to San Francisco. It was a small road map sign, nothing more. I really didn’t think I’d actually stop by for a purpose unique to its history.

During our weekend in Sonoma County, Zhi arranged for us to attend a “ghost walk” after dinner at Two Birds, One Stone in Napa. As we all piled into the car savoring the afterglow of the meal, we fell into conversation about the next destination.

“So, are you guys going to be okay?” Zhi asked.

“Of course we are, we’re meeting with a group, right? Like, they sent an announcement and everything?” Garrick responds inquisitively.

“It’s kind of shady, we’re expected to meet at an address and they’ll cancel if there’s not enough people.” I confirm.

Zhi follows up with a nod and something along the lines of “So, if there’s no one there, we’ll have driven there for nothing!”

We arrived safely at the Lawler House; it looks like all sorts of wrong.


Something doesn’t quite feel right about this place. It’s the wrong architecture for this city.

There, we met our four tour “ghost-hunter tour guides” as well as the other tourists and we went off, EMF detectors in hand.

As we traversed all over the downtown area of Suisun City and heard about its numerous fires and alleged ghostly residents, the EMF detectors remained neutral. They only ever went off if we were nearby a cluster of lights. Despite the apparent lack of teenagers hopping about trying to scare us, I was still feeling pretty happy about getting a nice walk after dinner.

Then, they brought us to the second floor of the Lawler House. The night was warm, and the 12-14 of us huddles around with the EMF detectors in the center. Our tour guides then decided to attempt to contact the supposed 13 ghostly entities that haunted the Lawler House. After a long trail of questions, the EMF detectors read no activity.

Then suddenly,

“Did you work on the ranch?”


What. The. F*ck.

We were all pretty shocked and focused on the EMF detectors, but then…no more.

After the initial recording, we listened to the playback and surely enough, during the same set of questions, the EMF blipped again. Truly chilling.

I saw something flicker over by the door after that. At the moment, I’m hoping that it was just my imagination.

Then the tour guides said a bunch of things including something about a time bubble, dead loved ones, and then we headed out to the hotel. (On a normal day, my bedtime is 10:45 PM, so I was getting a little bit tired at this point.)

The empiricist in me gets very skeptical about these sorts of things, but sometimes, you just have to hand it to them — if they’re staging something, they got it down pat just enough to question. If they’re not, then we’ll just have to accept that there are some things that just linger here in this world for one reason or another. Everyone asks “Just what is waiting on the other side?”

I don’t know; frankly, I’m not worried. We all get there eventually. Me? I’d like to think that my loved ones are on the other side with open arms and a full plate of ghostly morsels.

If you guys want to hang with the ghost hunters in Suisun City, please go ahead and follow this link — it’s $20 buckaroos to be incredibly confused or utterly convinced.

Suisun Waterfront’s Ghost Walk

Keep it Schmucky,


Weekend in Sonoma County, CA


Truer words have never been spoken.

Once again, this is Clara coming off the heels of a weekend in Sonoma County where Zhi and his friend Garrick planned a trip as a treat for Madison and me, their girlfriends! The ladies were almost completely in the dark for what was planned ahead, so almost everything came off as a surprise to us. So, on behalf of Madison and myself, thank you both so much!

Feel free to check out under the cut for an outline of our trip as well as some photos.

I’m absolutely awful at giving descriptions about what we did and how we felt during it. All I know is that I was relieved to find out that I actually did not gain any weight during this weekend even though my face felt super puffy from the wine tastings.

The photos Madison and Garrick took were proof of the puffiness, haha.

I own a bullet journal and that’s pretty much the extent of my consistency in chronicling any adventures nowadays. So, this will be done in bullet formatting.

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SchmuckReads: Minimalism, an open conversation

Shalom, Internet!

Today, I wanted to try something a little different and open up a conversation about something that has been very much on my mind: minimalism in the home. I just finished reading 100 Essentials: Simple Kitchen + Capsule Wardrobe + Minimalist Home and while I agree with the notion that one shouldn’t be too materialistic (for practical reasons), I couldn’t help but feel a little bit annoyed at something. I also managed to see a documentary on minimalism on Netflix appropriately titled Minimalism: A Documentary about Important Things and I have a few points to discuss on the matter.

These past few weekends, Zhi and I went through our closets and our kitchen and managed to clear out all of the duplicate, outdated, and broken pieces that we’ve accumulated over the years. Naturally, when two independent people move in together, there are going to be duplicates of things and of course, with busy lives, it’s difficult to find time to just sit down and clear things out.

I hate clutter with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns, so I was ready to clear things out pronto. But of course, there are many instances when something cheap will break and you will need to replace it. So then, at what point would the “just in case” mentality end and the “I need to get rid of this shit now” motivation begin?

Luckily, one of our friends moved down to our area and was in need of kitchen supplies, so clearing out the kitchen was an easy fix. Zhi and I are avid cooks on our own and had many duplicates that we were more than happy to hand over to another home.


As for our clothes, it was natural that we wanted to donate them to the needy, so that was a no-brainer.

Our plans for the future include cleaning out our books and our old school papers in favor of getting organized, as well as a number of knick-knacks in storage that we may or may not use in the future. I’m bracing myself because I know I’m going to feel absolutely awful getting rid of the books. (They’re really the one thing I collect. But time makes it so that they are collecting dust. It’s time to face the fact that I may never read or re-read some of them.)

Our thoughts behind this de-cluttering are that the more organized and clean our home is, the more efficiently we will go about our day. We will cut down on wasted space and wasted items that never get touched. For us, it’s not about just the items, but the way we carry out our household routine is also leaned out so that all of our free time is at the end of our weekdays. Then, with a leaned-out household routine, it will give us more flexibility to focus on the things that matter or accommodate for life’s unexpected events.  Essential items we need won’t get lost because we’ll be able to see them. Our cats won’t get into anything that may potentially harm them because everything that can will be safely tucked away where it should be.


So, then if I’m practicing this sort of minimalism …what’s my problem with it?

I have two reasons:

  1. I’m not big on labeling myself as anything but me.
  2. Things that get over-branded as a type of “holier than thou” philosophy really really really piss me off.

I don’t follow any minimalist blogs. I don’t pay attention to anything image-wise concerning it. I just try my best to recycle and re-purpose my belongings as best as I can so that neither Zhi nor I will trip over any clutter in our home.

A person should really have a healthy relationship with their possessions. If certain things make you happy, then I say go buy them! I have nothing against that. In fact, it makes me smile from ear-to-ear when I walk into a friend’s room and see so much of their interests, hobbies, and personality consume the room. It’s comforting to see so much of them in it. 

However, minimalism has become somewhat of a marketing ploy for a lot of people. It’s become the new “in” thing. It has become a way of saying “Look at me, I don’t have extra things because I want the simplest way to be chic and classy while brandishing my wealth because I can afford these sparse yet expensive items!”

It’s been corrupted by a veil of consumerism. Please, don’t get me wrong — I strongly believe that a person should be able to enjoy nice things in their home. However, the meaning of minimalism becomes lost when you begin to obsess about what kind of/how many objects you have. The idea of it is that it’s suppose to free up time and make the more important things stand out. “More important” shouldn’t mean “more expensive.” It shouldn’t be a competition to keep up with “who has less.”

It appears that the people who can afford to project that sort of aesthetic are the ones who don’t have to worry about their financial situation — if something breaks, they throw away the first $4000 floor lamp and replace it with another one.

For a photographer, the $4000 lamp could have been —

  • a $20-30 floor lamp(s)
  • a new camera lens (on its own)
  • a few reflectors
  • a tripod
  • a new chair
  • a new TV stand

The point is,  that money could be many other things other than a $4000 lamp in a sparsely-furnished room.

An example from our household: we have two trash bins in our kitchen: a small one-gallon wastebasket and a 13-gallon trash bin. The smaller, one-gallon wastebasket sits on our counter and the 13-gallon trash bin sits on the floor in the corner of our kitchen.  Why do we have two trash bins? One interpretation of minimalism says we should have only one trash bin.

  1. We live on the third floor of our apartment complex in a one-room unit.
  2. I am not the most graceful of cooks.

Many of our dishes are saucy or involve raw fish or chicken in their creation. To prevent the trash from smelling like hot, dead roadkill at the end of every week and from weighing more than we can comfortably carry, we use the smaller trash bin on the counter as we prep our raw animal product in our meals and take the smaller trash out more frequently. The larger, 13-gallon garbage bin will always weigh more once it’s full, so reducing the weight each time we take out the garbage helps us prevent potential spillage and other messes.

In short, the smaller bin is for smellier raw material waste while the larger one is for everything else.

This works for us, so it’s necessary for us to have two trash bins. We would not pass the so-called “100 Things” challenge, but it makes us more efficient.

I’m not trying to bash anyone on following minimalism — in fact, the basic concept of it has really helped me keep my life clean and healthy.

However, just to keep things open-ended, I’ll recommend another book:

The Lean Anthology: A Practical Primer in Continual Improvement

It’s about applying the concept of Lean in your everyday life including the principles of  現場 (the place of value),  無駄 (waste), 改善 (betterment),  and 看板方式 (inventory management). It’s truly a fascinating read.

What do you folks think of minimalism? If you are a practicing minimalist, what has this methodology done for you? Has it helped? Has it harmed?

I’m all open-ears,


SchmuckLife: An Open Letter to My Mother

Dear Ma:

When we are born, we spend so much time trying to learn how to become a better person when we are grown. We are born selfish and we concentrate on the things we do not have or have not been given and work on trying to gain those things. We focus on ourselves with very little regard for the people around us. When we become adults, a lot of us still are very selfish and want to keep things for ourselves.

But when an adult becomes a parent, a lot of changes have to be made.


You might never have a chance to sit down. You work for 365 days a year and the demand gets higher when the holidays come near. Your sick days or your paid time off become time spent with your children for your children. You stay up late at night when your children are sick. You know every food they like and every food they don’t like. You want to cry when you see them in pain. You see them learn and grow and play and become adults too. When they leave the house, you worry about them because you spent so much time protecting them and teaching them so they can be ready when they leave. But you’re never ready to see them go.

I know you were never ready to see us go.


Ma, thank you for giving me everything I needed to become the woman I am today. Thank you for never giving up on me, even when I was difficult to understand.

Whenever this day comes, I cry every time because I know that someday I will lose you too.  My heart aches to see it because there will be a day when I will want to call you and you won’t pick up. There will come a day when I will want nothing more than to give you one last hug and say “I’ll see you soon” and then I won’t be able to.

Life is short. And the first kind of love a child learns about is from their mother.

There is no love quite like it.

And I want to cherish that for even more years to come.

I hope you will continue to watch our family grow and continue to guide me through this convoluted journey.

I love you.


Happy Mother’s Day!

Your Crazy Daughter


SchmuckEats: Mushi-Pan Basics and Variations (蒸しパン) [VEGAN]

I have always been a bit of a fair-weather sweets person at best. I also despise baking, especially since it’s been warming up here in California and I really don’t want to turn on the oven in my apartment. But what to do when you want something hot and fluffy and kind of bad for you?

You steam it.


My Earl Grey Mushi-Pan! 😀

I see you turning away and opening a tab for a one-minute BuzzFeed Tasty video, but hear me out.

Steamed bread is awesome. I’ve been eating it since I was a kid and it’s like a dessert that is socially appropriate for you to eat it for breakfast! It’s like a muffin!

Read below the cut for my basic mushi-pan recipe that includes no milk and no eggs. It’s very similar to a Chinese mantou and there’s no proofing or yeast involved either!

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