Penthouse apartment

Today, I visited an open house three blocks from our apartment of a penthouse for rent on the 11th floor of a luxury building. In this case, “luxury building” just means it’s a newer building with a doorman; there was no gym, pool, or lounge area to speak of. In fact, there wasn’t even a lobby with a sitting area like you usually see when you go into these ridiculously priced buildings. The apartment was going for $4500/month for a one bedroom, not-quite-one-bath (shower only; no bath tub) and boasted a huge wrap around terrace. When I stepped foot inside, I realized the terrace was the only bragg-able feature.

The living room was a living room/kitchen; the kitchen was a single wall with a deep sink… and only two burners on the half stove. The refrigerator, freezer, and dishwasher are hidden inside cabinetry for the all-white look the apartment was going for. “Where is the oven?” I asked the realtor. “Is that hidden, too?”

“No, there’s no oven,” he said smiling. “Just a stove and a small microwave oven right up here.”

That’s not a microwave oven. That was just a regular microwave. What is this guy, a total moron? Does he think a two-burner stove and no oven is real? This is worse than the crappy East Village apartments my former roommate and I looked at back in 2008 that had college-dorm-sized refrigerators. At least those places were cheaper and meant to be cheap; this is a penthouse apartment on the Upper East Side, and it has NO OVEN AND ONLY TWO BURNERS?

The terrace space was huge, though, and had views of downtown Manhattan. The terrace space was probably bigger than the interior of the apartment itself; perhaps even two to three times as large. What a stupid apartment. Whoever rents this place will be a rich idiot.

Presents from Paris

Chris came back from his week-long trip to France and surprised me with Jean-Ives Bordier butter, the famous butter churned in the Brittany region of France that is known for extremely high butter fat (well, all of France is known for that), grass-fed cow cream (resulting in yellower butter), and inventive flavorings. Last October when we went, I packed gallon-size ziplock bags and foil in anticipation of purchasing these special butters and bringing them back home, and it was so worth it. When we tasted these on bread, it was life-changing; the quality of the butter was unmistakable, and the taste could not be compared to anything I’d had here before. This time, Chris brought back five different flavors: smoked salt, which I’d loved and bought the first time, citrus olive oil, seaweed (or algae), espelette chili, and buckwheat. It will be a challenge to figure out how to use each of these, but I suppose the first step would be just to taste them on good bread. The buckwheat butter is especially strange, as the only thing I could think of doing with it would be to top it on pancakes or spread it on muffins.

Travel question

At a team lunch this week, I told my team mates that Chris and I would be leaving for South Korea late next week, and they all seemed to have this semi-puzzled look on their face, and they asked, “What are you going to be doing there?”

The funny thing about this question is that this never gets asked if you are going to some place like France, Italy, London, L.A., or some place that Westerners consider a hot spot. Even last year when we went to Japan, no one asked me what I’d be doing there; it was just assumed that I’d have an amazing time given Japan’s global reputation.

Why are we going to Korea? Because we like Korean food, want to explore Korean culture, and simply because we just like exploring new cities and countries around the world. I told my friend about my thoughts around this, and he said he got a similar reaction when he told friends and colleagues he was going to India the two times he went. He said everyone just assumed it was for work because why else would he want to visit a country like India?

Maybe I really am a culture snob, but I really just don’t like questions like that when they are aimed at certain places in the world.

Gay pride bake sale

This week, my company is doing a gay pride bake sale, and all proceeds will go to a non profit that supports underprivileged, at-risk LGBT youth. I baked chocolate chip cookies for the bake sale, and this afternoon, I helped man the table in our building lobby to help the cause.

The bake sale is pretty generous: for a $5 donation, you can pretty much take anything you want and as much as you want. We tell this to everyone who comes to the table, and when we told one woman, she was a bit outlandish and said, “Five dollars? That’s a lot of money to ask! I was just going to give a dollar. Forget this!” and left in a huff to the elevator.

A $5 donation, especially when you can take as many baked goods as you please, doesn’t seem like that much to me, especially when you know that 100 percent of the proceeds are going to a good cause. It’s not like we’re charging $5 per cookie.

“Equal”

My mom keeps insisting that I should come home this December. She wants me to spend the whole month at home, “or at least two weeks like you used to,” she said today. She said it would be just like going to Australia and working remotely, except it would be even easier in San Francisco since I have an office I could work out of there.

“Just like going to Australia?” I don’t think so.

“You’ve already gone there for the last four years,” she continued. I could tell she was trying to control her voice and not yell at me. “It’s just not fair. You haven’t come home in December for four years now. Chris can still go there. You can just come here. You have to make it equal between us.”

Well, it seems like I leave and go to Australia for four weeks, but I really only spend about two weeks with Chris’s family. For five days to a week, we’ll usually take a side trip somewhere else, and for the final week, last year we went to Hong Kong. I came home to San Francisco for a week in January and will likely be going for another week in September this year. So, isn’t that two weeks with my family vs. two weeks with his family — sort of?

My family doesn’t even celebrate Christmas, and Chris’s birthday is Christmas day. Why would Chris want to spend his birthday and Christmas with my miserable family? And why would I want to forsake Christmas?

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While writing this post, I received the sad news that my cousin’s wife’s dad suddenly passed away. He had been driving in his car along the road when he wasn’t feeling well, so he pulled over and turned the engine off. A sheriff found him hours later and had to break the window open to find out he was gone. He was 72. They are awaiting an autopsy to find out exactly what happened to him.

So the reality check here: why would I want to forsake Christmas? Maybe I should be spending more time with my parents. Who knows what will happen to them today or tomorrow or next year. How devastating it must have been for my cousin’s wife’s sister to get the call from the sheriff. But if I really believed that, then I would just move back to San Francisco and see them every single day. And I wouldn’t be happy. No matter what happens, I’ll always have a conflicting relationship with my parents. Chances are, it would be far worse if we were closer in geography than farther apart. The fighting and the anger and delusions — none of that is healthy or productive. But maybe, like one of my friends said, maybe one day I may find myself missing fighting with my mom. Maybe? Who knows. All I know now is that I can’t be happy or sane being at home for over a week at a time. It’s just life.

Patacon and ice cream

Tonight, I met up with my friend who is visiting from Seattle for work, and we caught up over patacons (Venezuelan plantain sandwiches) and Morgenstern’s ice cream in the Lower East Side. We spent about three hours together, yet it didn’t feel like enough time. I only really get to see her once or twice a year when she’s in town visiting family or coming for work.

While we talked about everything from my wedding in March to her potentially staying in Seattle to our dysfunctional families, I realized that even though I’ve known her for only a relatively short time, somehow, we probably get along and understand each other better than some of my long time friends. Why would this be the case? Maybe it’s because with friends you’ve had for a long time, they have a perception of what you were when you were really close and in proximity, and they want to hold onto those perceptions even after you’ve evolved over time and changed a lot. Sometimes, we don’t always accept change as much as we think we will; it’s just part of humans being creatures of habit.

I suppose the other aspect is that maybe we should accept that we may not always be able to understand those we once considered closest to us, and that they may not be able or even want to understand us and why we live our lives the way we do. We use excuses like not enough time, distance, but part of that is also just lack of desire. That is just life constantly moving and willing to leave you behind.

Father’s Day

Father’s Day. It’s one of those holidays that has never really meant much in our family because the act of giving gifts isn’t something that either of my parents really care about. They expect gifts, yes, but more just the thought than the actual gift. One time, my mom just assumed (wrongly) that I hadn’t sent anything to my dad, so she preemptively decided to lecture me about everything my dad has done for me and how I should be grateful. I told her to zip the lip and stop babbling because we were still days away from actual Father’s Day.

I still remember one year, I got my dad a healthy cooking recipes book, and the store offered free gift wrapping, so I had it wrapped. I presented it to my dad on Father’s Day, and he said thanks… then didn’t open the gift until eight months later.

I used to call for Father’s Day, but I realized my dad didn’t really appreciate it. Whenever I send him any gift, instead of calling me to thank me, he emails me a single one liner email: “Hi Yvonne, Thank you for the (fill in the blank). -Daddy.” Calling is hard for someone who is anti social, even when it’s your own daughter.

Lease

Our lease is ending, and this year, Chris thinks that we should seriously look for a new place — at least, to see what is out there and if it’s worth moving. We still have some time to let our landlord know if we’d like to stay for another year, and knowing me and my laziness, the chances are high that we will stay. But this year, we’re actually going to really invest time in researching to see what we could get for different price points. We’re very lucky as New Yorkers, since while most everyone else we know complains about rent and says they pay way too much for what they have, we actually pay far, far less than what people assume we pay, and we’re saving at a very attractive rate. The cheap side of me wants to continue saving, but the side of me that is getting older is silently saying, I want more space. I want a bigger kitchen. It would be so great to have better natural light.

So this evening, we started looking at some places online and calling to make appointments. Then, I remembered what I hate the most about looking for an apartment: dealing with real estate agents, even if they are no-fee (on the renter’s side). I’m sure they are busy, but they always have this air of “you need to accommodate my schedule.” Um, no. You will accommodate our schedule because guess what? We don’t need to move, and therefore we don’t need you as much as you need us and your commission.

Well, the fun is about to begin.

Union Square Greenmarket

After my dentist appointment today, I took the train downtown to Union Square to hit up the Greenmarket before dinner, and I picked up some garlic scapes and beets. I was so excited; I had been reading about garlic scapes in the last week in a food blog I follow, and I had no idea that the tops of garlic, garlic scapes, were edible and good for cooking. I purchased just shy of a pound of them and went on my way home.

On my ride uptown, I thought about all these vegetables and fruit that you never get exposed to shopping at regular grocery stores and super markets, things like garlic scapes, rhubarb, golden beets, jerusalem artichokes, kohlrabi, dandelion greens, the literally hundreds of varieties of apples, potatoes, squash, eggplant, and yams. If all we did was shop at grocery stores, we’d be ignorant to all the amazing variety of produce out there. It’s no wonder people get bored of grocery shopping and cooking. If you don’t have variety that keeps changing, then what’s fun about it, and what’s there to look forward to?

Vampire

My medical tests results came back, and everything looks good (especially my good cholesterol; the doctor was so impressed :) — except the doctor says that I am low on vitamin D and should consider taking a supplement. As soon as I read this, I immediately thought, hmmm, is that because of all the sunblock I wear every single day? “Yes, you are such a vampire,” my friend joked. Vitamin D is primarily taken in by the body via sun exposure, and I read that over 50 percent of Americans are deficient in this vitamin, which is why oftentimes cereals, breads, and milk-type beverages are fortified with vitamin D. I drink milk almost every day, I thought. I guess that isn’t enough. Leafy greens like Swiss chard and kale actually do not have vitamin D as I originally thought; they just have a lot of other vitamins and are high in calcium.

Now I’m not sure what supplement to choose. The supplements for vitamin D often have some sort of oil since vitamin D needs to be taken with a fat to properly be absorbed by the body. The Kirkland Signature brand (from Costco) has corn oil as the oil in their supplements; that just sounds disgusting. The more popular and higher rated oils are made with coconut. Who wants to take a pill filled with corn oil?