Rethinking Willpower. (Don’t get so distracted.)

Rethinking Willpower. (Don’t get so distracted.)

I’ve changed my mind about willpower. For a while now I’ve believed my willpower was limited, that I only have so much in a day. WRONG. Thanks to an article that debunked that theory, I now have a different concept of it.

fall flowers.jpg

I found this article about willpower: You’ve got the power. In it Sara Angle goes over both studies, an earlier one by Idaho State University claimed “willpower was a muscle” and “limited”. It could be depleted as you used it. So, you had to allow yourself some leeway. If you spent all day resisting the urge to eat chocolate, well, by dinnertime you were screwed. You couldn’t help but eat junk food and spend the rest of the night watching TV, because you had no more willpower.

Well, newer studies from the University of Colorado, and the National University of Singapore Business School have a different idea. The new studies claim that willpower is more a “tool” or a “method” for overcoming challenges and you can have as much as you need. It’s “limitless” but depends on “your skills, values and personality.” So, if you know you’re a lazy person in the evening, then you also know you’ll have more willpower, and be more productive in the morning.

Willpower is like a pendulum

Here’s how I like to think of it now. Willpower is like a pendulum, and it swings along a spectrum from high to low.


LOW WILLPOWER
(nothing gets done, no motivation)

vs

HIGH WILLPOWER
(yes, I can do everything I want to:
play outside, write my weekly blog post, and write 1000 words every day.)


I’m a morning person, but I work an early shift now. I have to do my writing and errands in the evening. If I don’t get enough sleep, if I haven’t been eating right, then I have very little willpower.

The opposite is true too. When I feeling upbeat, positive and strong, when I’m in a good mood and hopeful, I eat right, I go to bed on time, then I can work like crazy. I finish work, I do my writing, and I even get outside to walk in the sunshine.

So, now, I’ve changed my thinking. I know myself better.

If its raining out, I have no desire to go walking, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do yoga inside. Five minutes of stretching and I feel so much better.

Sure, if I work too hard, then I’m exhausted by the end of the day. I come home without any energy. I plop down on the couch and – that’s it. I have no willpower; it’s depleted. Only now I believe it isn’t gone. This is when my willpower is on the low end of the spectrum and it’s just much harder to motivate myself.

Some days are easier than others.

As a baker I work around donuts, and sometimes it’s so hard to resist eating one little donut hole that got smashed and we can’t possibly sell. But sometimes it’s easy. I don’t need to eat it. Sure it’s tasty, but it’s also fatty and oily and sugary. Some days are easier than others.

What is your spectrum like? What changes your ability to get things done?


Here’s some distractions from October 8th – 14th

 

Recipes

Kale Quinoa stuffed Sweet Potatoes

I made this one, only I didn’t stuff anything. I just cut the potato open, mashed it a little and put the quinoa-kale-chickpea mix on top. This is the kind of good wholesome food I like to eat, mostly.

I also recommend making a pan of 8 x 8 brownies. Once it’s cooked, place a layer of marshmallows on top and broil them.

Voila, Toasted Marshmallow Brownies. Don’t eat too many.

 

Videos

Before we had good footwear, we wore leather-like socks and we walked differently. Here’s a very knowledgeable German man to explain, and demonstrate.

How do you feel about spoilers? Well, this video changed my mind about them. I also love this channel. I will post more about his videos in the future.

Now I understand better why I get so upset when I’m spoiled. But, sometimes I want to be spoiled. I want to know if a game is worth playing or a movie worth watching. I will literally google for spoilers. Spoilers don’t ruin everything, but they do take away the potential; the possibility of an amazing experience is gone.


 

I also watched two different takes on plot twists this week. They make them sound so simple, but it’s really not. Or at least, I believe you can’t go into a story wanting to make a plot twist. Thinking ‘I’m going to write a plot twist’ is the wrong attitude. It needs to grow out of the story organically. Crafting a story comes from utilizing good characters, tracing their emotional growth, giving them challenges and conflicts, knowing what they want and then denying them. This can often result in a plot twist.

 

 

 

Interesting ideas, discoveries

Gravity is real! Amazing! I didn’t realize we’d discovered gravity – I mean gravitation waves. No, seriously these ripples in space-time were only a theory. Einstein didn’t know if they really existed, but they do. We have proof.

 

A list of Studies; all those -ology words, like the study of trees, and the study of dogs. I should have studied Xylology in school.

Vulcanology, the Study of Volcanoes sounds more like the study of Star Trek Vulcans.

 

I’m linking to some articles about Grape-kun, if you want to know more, or see pictures. He was a sweet old penguin in Japan who fell in love with an anime character.

Basically, a popular show called Kemono Friends features various anthropomorphized animals, including a penguin-girl called Hululu.

There was a promotion for the anime at a local zoo and the zookeepers put a cardboard cut-out of the adorable character Hululu in the penguin pen and that’s how the real penguin Grape-kun met a 2-D character. He would stand nearby and stare at Hululu, sometimes refusing to eat. He was in love. Now, we fondly remember him.

 

Chilean filmaker Nicolás Lopez has a different philosophy about making films. He would rather make more films, at a cheaper cost and make them profitable, than make just one film that’s extremely expensive and has to be a huge blockbuster to make any money.

Sounds like a better plan to me. This is part of the reason why I’m going to start self-publishing soon.

I downloaded this game called Doki Doki Literature Club. (Doki Doki translates to the sound of a heart beating. It usually meaning excitement, happiness, and is caused by being near someone you love.)

The game starts with this disclaimer, so does the video. “This game is not suitable for children or those who are easily disturbed”. Immediately follows a cheerful song and cute looking girls from a school club. I’ve played about twenty minutes and nothing bad has happened . . . but I know it’s coming. Oh, terrible things are going to happen to these sweet girls and knowing that is the worst part. I don’t know if I can keep playing.

Terrible things are going to happen to these sweet girls and knowing that is the worse. I don’t know if I can keep playing.

Watch out for those plot twists.

 

 


Currently Reading: Winter Queen by Jane Stevenson
On my Kindle: Rebel in the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
Current Distraction: Tetris, level 9-5 I will beat you.

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Simply Distracted; new goals

Simply Distracted; new goals

Why is it bad habits are so easy to start, and good habits are hard? Is it a matter of attitude?

distractions1

 

 

For example, stretching. I work as a baker, and that means early mornings and constantly using my hands and arms and upper body. The easiest way to deal with my pain, especially back pain, is to stretch, every day, after work, but I don’t do this.

Perhaps, because I feel obligated to do this, then I can’t get into the habit. But, perhaps if I change my thinking and convince myself that I enjoy it. Then I could get into the habit and I would start liking it, and I’d feel better, reinforcing the behavior. All around it sounds like a good idea. However, just writing that out feels forced. I have to convince myself. Obligated is such a heavy word.

On the other hand.

I clearly have a youtube problem. This habit I picked up so easily. I watch a video. It amuses me. I laugh. I want to watch another. I find one that teaches me something interesting. I watch another. I discover a reviewer who has a fabulous accent and I like listening to his voice as he tells me amusing, attractive, insightful things. I watch another. This habit is simple, easy to describe. Effortless. I also spend way too much time on youtube.

All of my distractions lately have been videos.
Don’t worry, I’m going to share them with you.
Now, you can be distracted too.

I’m hoping this will be become a new habit: my sharing distractions. This is a goal I came up with a few days ago. Something I can do with my blog, since I tend to neglect it so terribly. Plus, as a bonus, this way I can track everything that distracts from what I should be doing.

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Distractions from last week; October 1st-7th

Recipes

I haven’t tried any of these recipies, but if you do, let me know. They sound scrumptious.

Almond Joy cookies

Pumpkin Spice Peanut Butter

Videos

John Oliver has this late night/political comedy bite; the style might be off-putting to some people. How much research goes into these segments? The jokes aren’t really my thing, but I enjoy the presentation, more than stand-up comedy.

Speaking of comedy. The Youtube channel is called: Every Frame a Painting. He does wonderful film analysis. Watch them.

After watching the video on Buster Keaton, I’m now a Buster Keaton fan. I like a good gag. I like my writing to be full of gags and ridiculous situations. I wonder how I can apply this style to my writing.

The comedy here is entirely visual, but it’s action based. “Keaton never liked it when others told their story through title cards.” Rather he portrayed it through action on-screen, “through gesture and pantomime”.

Writing needs to be active:

  • characters that do things, not just react,
  • scenes flow from one to the next.
  • a plot is tightly paced, so the story is impossible to put down.
  • The reader is compelled to keep reading, to find out what happens next.

“Keaton believed that each gesture you made needs to be unique. Never do the same thing twice.”

This could apply to characters. Their backstory defines who they are, and influences how they act. You give them a uniqueness, something easy to identify them. Would that mean a quirk? A mannerism? A way of speaking? A colorful tone of voice? A trademark item for them to hold? Do the clothes define the woman?

Fascinating.

 

Interesting facts, words and other discoveries

  • The writer and director of the movie District 9, Neill Blomkamp has an interesting project called Adam.

These are a short videos, set in a dystopian world of robots, exiled robots. More interesting than the story is the fact he created the videos in UNITY. That’s a program mainly used to make video games. It has a free version you can download right now. Start making your own videos, and video games.

Details here: ADAM

  • Ender’s Game

I only read the book recently. It’s still very very good. I haven’t seen the movie yet, and wondered how it compared. This reviewer on amazon  made me want to see it more.

A train station was built in the French and Spanish border, called the Titanic of the Mountains. It was later abandoned, but I think it might be worth a visit someday.

I never realized there were so many different dragon-types all over the world, and in so many different languages.

I did google search about the word wyvern. Google defines it as:  “A winged two-legged dragon with a barbed tail” and that it comes from the word for viper. (Latin vipera) But take a look at the graph.

There is a strange spike in the late 1860s. Who was writing books about wyverns back then? Why is it higher than now? Peculiar.

That’s all for now. Enjoy your distractions.


Currently Reading: The Winter Queen by Jane Stevenson
On my Kindle: I just finished this one by Libbie Hawker Take off your Pants: Outline your books for Faster, Better writing: revised Edition. It has an excellent point about outlines, if you want to try her method. However, I wanted more than just the outline. She doesn’t tell you how she writers a book in 3 weeks. How is that possible even with an outline?
Current Distraction: FFXV updated

 

Green mirror glazed Christmas Cake and other baking distractions

Green mirror glazed Christmas Cake and other baking distractions

Cake can be very distracting. Here are four recipes I discovered this year and couldn’t resist baking.

1) Neapolitan-style Bavarian Cake

cake2neopolitan-bavarian-cake

For Easter I made a Neapolitan-style Bavarian Cake. I used strawberries, instead of the raspberries like the original recipe.

Find the recipe here: Chocolate-raspberry Bavairan Torte

2) Raspberry Vanilla Cake with Mascarpone frosting

cake-july

I made this for an early birthday party in July. Look at this gorgeous cake!

Find the recipe here: Raspberry vanilla cake with mascarpone frosting

or watch how to make it.

3) No Bake Chocolate Pie

chocolate-pie

Chocolate. Chocolate. Chocolate. Gooey and silky smooth. I made an Italian Meringue for the top, instead of a regular meringue. We toasted it using my Dad’s propane torch. Not exactly a kitchen torch, but it worked beautifully.

Find the recipe here: no bake chocolate pie

4) Evergreen Christmas Cake

Green mirror-glazed vanilla cake with caramel mousse.

 

christmas-mirror-cake-2

The mirror glaze makes for a fantastic looking cake, doesn’t it?

I cobbled the recipe together from various places, my sources are at the bottom. It is a 6 step cake and I took three days to make it.

 

Step 1 Cake

Vanilla Cake
3 cups (375g) all purpose flour
1/2 tsp (2g) salt
3 tsp (12g) baking powder
1 cup (226g) unsalted butter, room temperature
1-2/3 cups (335g) sugar
5 eggs
2 tsp (10g) vanilla extract
1 cup (240ml) milk

Directions
1) Preheat oven to 350F. Butter and flour two 9 inch round cake pans.
2) In a medium bowl sift the flour, baking powder and salt and whisk to combine. Set aside.
3) In a large mixing bowl cream the butter and sugar. Beat mixture until it’s light and creamy yellow. Incorporate eggs one at a time. Add vanilla extract.
4) Gradually add flour mixture while alternating with milk. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans.
5) Bake for about 30 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let pans cool on a cooling rack for ten minutes, and then remove from pans and allow to cool completely.

Step 2 Rich praline-cream filling

Praline powder
For Caramel sauce
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1/8 tsp cream of tarter
Toasted pecans, 1/3 cup pecans finely chopped or finely ground

1)Making the Caramel sauce: Combine sugar, water and cream of tarter in heavy sauce pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved. (Check this by rubbing some of the sauce between your fingers. If you don’t feel any sugar grains its dissolved.)  Stop stirring
2) Bring sugar to full boil, and continue to boil until it turns a dark amber color. This may take a while.

tips:

  • You can swirl the pan to help it caramelize evenly, but don’t stir it.
  • The sugar may crystallize on the edges of your pan. You can use a pastry brush and water to melt these off, or just leave them.
  • The cream of tarter helps stabilize the caramel, and that keeps it from crystallizing. So I usually just leave the pan alone.
  • Watch the caramel carefully once it starts to turn an orangey color. Keep cooking  until it reaches a deep caramel/amber. Use your nose and smell it. If it gets too dark, and smells burnt then you have to make a new batch.
  • Test your caramel color by putting a small amount on a white plate.
  • Hot sugar/Caramel is very hot, don’t touch it, or let it splash you. You will get badly burned.

3) Prepare a cookie tray, or jelly roll pan, covered it in tinfoil. Once your caramel reaches a a deep amber, or dark caramel color, remove it from heat and pour in a microwavable bowl. It will be very hot, but starts to cool off quickly.
4)Quickly pour hot caramel onto your tinfoil-covered tray. If caramel gets too hard to pour, you can reheat in microwave. Allow caramel candy to cool. Then break into pieces
5)Grind cooled caramel in food processor, or crush into a fine powder. (Keep extra caramel powder in your refrigerator)
6) Toast pecans in oven, at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool. Use these for the cake garnish and to make the praline powder for filling.
7) Combine 1/3 cup of caramel powder and 1/3 cup finely chopped or ground pecans
Rich Praline-cream filling
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
pinch of salt
2 egg yolks (or 1 egg slightly beaten)
1 Tablespoon butter
2/3 cup praline powder

1) combine sugar,cornstarch and pinch of salt in small bowl.
2) Add milk to top of a double boiler, and bring to a simmer. Add the sugar-cornstarch mixture and cook for 15 minutes until thickened.
3) Pour a small amount of hot milk mixture into a bowl of egg yolks and stir quickly to combine. (So you don’t cook your egg). Then transfer egg mixture to the double boiler. Continue to cook, stirring constantly for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
4) Add the butter, and praline powder and stir until combine. Pour through a strainer into a small bowl and allow to cool completely.

my notes: This was more of a sauce, which was great for soaking into the cake. If you want more of a thick fluffy filling modify the recipe to just 3/4 cup milk. Once the filling is cooled, gently fold in 1/4 cup of cream, that’s been whipped to stiff peaks.

 

Step 3 Caramel Mousse

Caramel Mousse
1-1/2 teaspoon unflavoured gelatin
2 Tablespoons water
1-1/2 cup granulated sugar
5 Tablespoons water
1/8 tsp cream of tarter
2 cups whipping cream (35%)
1/2 cup butter cubed
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
pinch salt

1) In small saucepan, add 2 Tbsp water; sprinkle gelatin over top. Stir to combine and set aside.
2) Making the caramel sauce: In a separate saucepan over medium heat, bring sugar, 5 Tbsp water and cream of tarter to boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Then stop stirring. Continue to boil, without stirring, until dark amber in color. This takes a while.
3) Once you get a deep ambery/caramel color, carefully add 1/2 cup of the cream, along with the butter, vanilla and salt. It will sputter and bubble up, so step back from stove-top as you stir these. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until smooth and thickened, about 3-5 minutes. Pour into a large bowl.
4) Cook gelatin mixture over medium heat just until dissolved, about 30 seconds. Add mixture to the caramel sauce and stir until combined. Let cool to room temperature.
5) In separate large bowl, beat 1-1/2 cups of the remaining cream until stiff peaks form. Stir one-quarter of the cream into cooled caramel-gelatin mixture until combined; fold mixture back into cream just until no white streaks remain.

Step 4 Assemble cake

8″ springform pan with removable bottom
serrated knife
off-set spatula

1) Your cake layers need to fit inside an 8″ springform pan leaving about 1/4″ around the edges. Level the cake, cutting off the top so it’s even. Trim to fit inside your 8″ pan. (I used a paper plate as a guide and cut the cake edges off, until it fit inside. The cake pieces will be a tasty snack. or maybe a trifle)
2) Place first cake layer on bottom of springform pan, with cut side up.
3) Spoon on praline filling  and allow it to soak in. (or spread an even layer of filling)
4) Add caramel mouse over the filling, and spread all around the edges.
5) Add second cake layer with cut side down. (The flat bottom faces up) Cover completely with the rest of the caramel mousse and level off. (Tap your cake pan on the tabletop to get out any air bubbles. You want to fill the springform completely and evenly, so that you get a smooth edges all the way around and on top.)
6) Freeze until firm. (You can make the cake and assemble ahead of time and keep in the freezer until you’re ready to glaze.)

Step 5 Dark Green mirror glaze

Mirror Glaze
4 teaspoons (16g) Powdered Unflavored Gelatin
7 Tablespoons (100ml) Water
3/4 cup (245g) Corn Syrup
1/4 cup (60ml) Water
1 cup (200 g) Granulated Sugar
1/2 cup (140g) Sweetened Condensed Milk
8 oz (220g) Good White Chocolate, broken into pieces
Green Gel food coloring (I used Wilsons Green-leaf gel food coloring, and added purple to make it darker.)

1) Add gelatin to 7 Tablespoons of cold water; stir to combine and set aside.
2) Combine the corn syrup, 1/4 cup of water and sugar in a heavy bottom sauce pan and bring to a full boil.
3) Add the bloomed gelatin and the sweetened condensed milk and whisk smooth.
4) Place white chocolate in medium bowl. Pour the entire hot mixture over the chocolate and whisk smooth, add food coloring.
5)Slowly pour glaze through a strainer into a medium bowl. The goal is to get rid of any air bubbles.
6) Allow glaze to cool until 90 degrees F, before you pour glaze over the cake

STEP 6 Final Garnish

mirror-glaze

Jelly roll pan
small bowl (just make sure it’s smaller than the cake bottom)
Powdered sugar
Sprig of evergreen, also dusted with powdered sugar
toasted pecans

1) While the glaze is cooling off: unmold your cake from the springform pan, and smooth edges and top. (Get it as smooth as you can. Because the glaze is very transparent and will show any bumps or rough edges. But make sure cake is still very cold when you glaze it.)
2) Place your frozen cake on the small bowl, and then pour cooled glaze over the top, allowing it to drip off the edges.
3) Allow glaze to cool completely. Carefully scrape off the drips from bottom and move to cake plate.
4) Use sieve to dust powdered sugar over the top, garnish with sprig of evergreen and toasted pecans.

my notes: The mirror glaze is a sticky gooey mess. It stays gooey, even if you freeze it. I glazed the cake and let it rest for an hour, then scrapped off the drippy edges and put the cake on the cake plate and kept it in the freezer. Then just before serving I added decorations.

Enjoy!

christmas-mirror-cake

 

Sources: The Vanilla cake was the same as the one I made in July, from Home Cooking Adventure . The filling I made from an old Fanny Farmer cookbook, the Caramel Mousse from Canadian Living, and the mirror glaze from Gretchen’s Bakery.

Youth


“Youth is a writhing thing. It squirms and wriggles in the mud. Youth is considered to be the “springtime” of one’s life… But spring is not always some fanciful fairy-tale time. It’s also the season when all the bugs and squirming things that people hate come crawling out of the earth.”

Durarara!!, Vol. 5 (novel) by Ryohgo Narita

 

“Sometimes it is the process of doing that makes things clear. If we don’t start, we never know what could have been. Sometimes the answers we find while searching are better or more creative than anything we could have ever imagined before.”

— Lynne Cox, Grayson

triumphant

 

Rare encounter with a Tanuki ( and other stories about Japanese Yokai)

Rare encounter with a Tanuki ( and other stories about Japanese Yokai)

When I visited Japan several years ago I had a strange encounter. I saw a mysterious creature, a yokai.

It was during a walking tour. My sister and I were climbing up a long set of stairs toward a temple gate. Ahead of us we noticed some Japanese girls taking photos and exclaiming excitedly. What was this about? We climbed faster.  In the bushes just off to the side, less than three feet away, we glimpsed a Japanese tanuki.

japanese tanuki

Continue reading “Rare encounter with a Tanuki ( and other stories about Japanese Yokai)”