Upwardly Global Silk Road of Queens Food Tour

A good friend of mine is an active volunteer for the organization Upwardly Global, and for the second year in a row, he’s organized the Silk Road of Queens food tour to raise money for this charity. The tour consists of 5-6 restaurant stops, where the group is able to sample the vast variety of cuisines and dishes that make up the borough of Queens. I loved the concept when he came up with it, particularly because I’ve always felt since I moved to Queens from Boston in 2008 that it was a highly underrated area to live and visit. Queens is probably one of the most diverse neighborhoods on the planet with the number of languages spoken, number of immigrants, and of course, its huge variety of restaurants, which frankly cannot be replicated probably anywhere else in the world. Manhattan can’t hold a candle to the sheer diversity of food that Queens is lucky enough to have.

This was my second year participating in the tour, and this time, I took Chris with me. We had some very interesting conversations with some of the other people who came on the tour, and we tried a number of restaurants that I’d definitely want to go back to, especially Fu Run, which is Northeast Chinese food (strongly influenced by the western Chinese provinces), and Stix, which is Uzbeki cuisine. We had everything from veal liver kebab at Stix to yak dumplings at a Nepalese/Tibetan restaurant to candied sticky taro and spiced cumin lamb chops at Fu Run. It was almost a struggle to keep up with all the food, but now I have an even longer list of restaurants I can’t wait to go back to. It’s really true what they say about living in New York. You could probably live here for something ridiculous like ten years and eat every single meal out — breakfast, lunch, and dinner — and still never eat at every single restaurant that existed here. This city is absolutely amazing. There’s always something new and different to eat.

Facial day

Today, I indulged Chris and myself and went to have facials done in the afternoon. I think professional facials are extremely indulgent; in my whole life, I’ve only had three including this one. But it’s nice to pamper yourself occasionally, especially when you live in a city that is as polluted as New York is. And I suppose it could be argued that it is a health benefit.

The esthetician who worked on me today told me that my skin was in very good condition, and I had no signs of aging or wrinkling other than the expected expression lines that are expected of people my age. I don’t think I naturally have good skin; I broke out like crazy from the ages of 11-13, and I still occasionally get a pimple or two. I have huge pores, which I hate, but I guess it’s part of the package when you are Asian and your mom has big pores, too. I had the fear of God put into me from a young age that I needed to wear sunscreen on my face every single day, even on days when it’s gray and gloomy outside, because the sun’s rays will cause me premature wrinkling. I’ve done that since the age of 9. Maybe that fear of God has paid off. It’s like when my dad kept instilling the importance of putting away a sizable percentage of my income into my 401K. “You don’t want to retire and be poor, do you?” No, I don’t think anyone would answer that question affirmatively. It’s amazing how authority figures can instill fear in you to ultimately be good. But it’s nice when you can see it benefiting your life later.

Autumn flavors

When the autumn comes, other women in New York get excited about what is arguably the most popular season for fashion — the fall. I guess that makes sense since New York Fashion Week happens in September, and it’s a time when you can do more texturing and layering with clothes to show off your fashion creativity. I, on the other hand, have never liked dressing for the fall, and have borderline dreaded the changing of the seasons. I like to dress for summer because I can dress light. I can pick one dress and a pair of sandals and be done. I like to dress for winter (well, not really, but it’s simple) because I wear more layers, a thick coat, and hats, scarves, and gloves — it’s very easy to think about. All of that is straightforward. Fall is not straightforward. Some days are over 75 degrees F in the fall. Other days barely clear 40. Today was pouring rain but humid as hell. What are you supposed to wear in situations like this? Some people wear mini skirts with warm suede boots… in rainy, windy weather. How do people do this and actually feel comfortable? It’s boggled my mind for years. Dressing in the fall always leaves me feeling awkward. I don’t know if my clothes look right together. Sometimes I feel over dressed. Other days, I feel under dressed (and definitely am because I am freezing). Fashion will never be my thing.

But what I have adapted very well to while living in the northeast are the flavors of autumn and the plethora of seasonally spiced items available at the farmers’ market and pretty much every grocery store: over 50 varieties of autumn/winter squash are available at the farmer’s market. So far this season, I’ve cooked the always-present butternut squash and the denser and sweeter kabocha squash. I can pick up my favorite Adirondacks pumpkin ice cream, made locally, at Whole Foods or Fairway. I can get endless organic pumpkin, fresh or canned, any time I’d like. Brussel sprouts are in season for roasting. And it’s also peak apple season here, which means I can buy my favorite variety that is only available from September through October — my beloved Honey Crisp. Apple cider is readily available everywhere you go, as are apple cider donuts. And I can’t forget about persimmons, the naturally cinnamon-like fruit that exists in nature.

That’s what autumn is really about to me. And it also reminds me that Christmas is just right around the corner.

“All moms are crazy”

I went out for drinks tonight with a good friend of mine, and we discussed my drama-filled days in San Francisco with my mom, conjuring up stories of how Chris has “hurt” her and my dad. My friend says loudly, “Your mom is crazy. All moms are crazy!” The bar we are drinking at doesn’t have that many patrons, but the ones who are in there all start cheering and agreeing. The bartender agreed and said that some people have mommy issues while others have daddy issues. She said she herself had mommy issues and got along perfectly with her dad.

“I don’t want to say she is crazy,” I said to my friend. “I think it’s kind of disrespectful.” My friend defended it and said she didn’t mean to offend my mom, but that’s not the point of what I was trying to say. I honestly believe my mom has a mental illness that hasn’t and will never be addressed or diagnosed. I mean, who else insists that everyone is out to get her and hurt her and keeps secrets more than my own parents at my mother’s insistence? We can’t just write people off as crazy when we know there is something psychologically wrong with them because it doesn’t address the core problem. We become the people we hate, the ones who make generalizations about “craziness” and then don’t acknowledge how harmful and serious these problems are.

Oh, Ed

I think my brother read my whining yesterday, so he decided to pay me a visit last night.

In my dream, he never died. This seems to be a reoccurring premise. He’s here, a part of this world, and he acts as though nothing has happened. His death was just a figment of my imagination, and everything bad that ever happened in his life never really happened. “What are you doing here?” I ask him.

He has an insulted look on his face. “What do you mean?” he responds back. He sits there and stares at me, confused and not sure what the heck I am thinking.

“You died,” I say to him. “You left me. You jumped off that bridge.”

“What are you talking about, Yvonne?” He sounds frustrated. I don’t know what to say to him. I’m surprised, confused, hurt, relieved, incredulous, all at the same time. Did none of this ever really happen? Maybe I am the one who has lost grip of reality.

And then my alarm goes off, and I wake up. And I look up at the frame with his photos up there on the left side of my bed, and I realize that no, it was not a nightmare that he died. He really did die. That is my reality. His existence on this earth in the last few hours was my real dream.

How Three Survivors of Suicide Spent Their Last Days On Earth

My friend sent me an article today with the same title as this entry. The article originated from a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” thread openly asking those who had attempted suicide and survived it how they went about what they thought would be the last days of their lives.

The three that are showcased in this specific article are very hopeful in terms of what they left that experience with. They all ended their stories by thinking in their “final” moments, “No, I do want to live. I don’t want to die. Please don’t let me die and give me one more chance to live.” Some even go into professions to help others who are struggling themselves, and it’s very admirable.

All of this sounds great, doesn’t it? It sounds hopeful, very “happily-ever-after.” It makes me really sad and teary to read accounts of people who have attempted. But the truth is that many stories are not this hopeful. Many people who attempt suicide are not doing it for the very first time; they have done it multiple times, and a lot of them really want to die, even in their very final moments. Ed attempted suicide just a couple months shy of his 18th birthday, when I was just 11 years old. I was about to start middle school; he was about to begin college. He popped too many pills and he thought he was going to die because he wanted to. But in what he thought would be his “final” moments, he said to me that he got scared and realized he didn’t want to die.

Then 16 years later, he attempts suicide again. And this time, he succeeded. And I truly believe he wanted to succeed this time.

I don’t think that’s what he thought in the second before he jumped off the bridge over two years ago, though. I mean, the witnesses said he paced back and forth for over 45 minutes. I’m sure he just wanted to get it done and over with. He probably wasn’t thinking he still wanted to live. He had given up. He had settled in his mind that it was better if he had never been born, as he had written me a few weeks before, and that God gave him a mental illness for a reason. No note, no last words, no nothing.

These are the stories you don’t get to see in weepy Upvoted or Reddit articles. There’s no happy ending here — just a sad, painful one.

Guns and mental illness

I think this country really needs to shut up regarding the issue with mass shootings and linking gun violence to mental illness. The entire thing is so ludicrous that I can feel my face getting red and hot whenever I hear another ignorant Republican say that mental illness is the issue when it comes to massive shootings. Mental illness needs to be addressed; guns don’t need to be taken away, they say. If you want to take away guns, why not also take away pencils and cars because those things have the potential to kill people, too? No, guys. That’s not accurate or even relevant. When did people who were mentally ill suddenly become a violent risk to society in large droves? Yes, mental illness is a huge problem in this country because no one wants to face it as a real health problem but as a weakness that is stigmatized and must be ostracized and swept under a rug (or behind closed doors), but it is a very separate issue from guns killing people. The majority of mentally ill people are not violent or a risk to society. Ed had a mental illness, and he had zero capacity to cause any real harm to anyone… other than himself. A lot of homicide that happens in this country is done by people who are seemingly unaffected by mental illness. When John Oliver is calling out Americans only discussing mental illness to thwart the discussion on gun control, you know something is seriously screwed up. Deal with the gun control issue. Deal with the mental illness issue. Stop linking the two and blaming the mentally ill for the shootings and the awful number of deaths from guns every year. It’s not accurate nor is it even remotely true. Address the guns, damn it. It’s an embarrassment to me not only as an American, but as someone who has lost her brother to mental illness and suicide.


I spent the early afternoon making meatballs for dinner since Chris was finally coming back from Australia after two weeks of being away for work and family. For the first time, I made gelatin out of leftover homemade stock, minced it up, and added it to my meatball “dough.” I formed each meatball, about 3.5 ounces each, and laid them out neatly on a foiled baking sheet to pop into the broiler before dumpling them into the tomato sauce I made.

As I formed each ball and gently placed each on the baking sheet, I thought about Ed and how much he liked meat. He rarely cooked. The few times he did, he never got praised for what he made. I guess I praised him once when he made chocolate chip cookies. He was so excited about finally making something himself… until they came out of the oven and didn’t seem that brown. He asked me why they didn’t brown as well as the cookies I’ve made, and I asked him if he remembered to use brown sugar. “Oh, no!” he exclaimed, disappointed. “I forgot to use brown sugar!” It was okay. They still tasted fine. Another time, he splurged and bought filet mignon when I wasn’t home, and he cooked and ate it himself. I think our mom ate a little bit, but my dad declined to eat any. He would have loved these meatballs, but I know he would have thought this recipe was way too complex.

I always look back and wonder if we should have spent more time doing things together. Maybe I could have asked him to cook with me, to share in some task that I found fun, instead of just asking him to help me wash the dishes afterwards, which was never fun for him or me. But the realistic side of me knows I would have been a control freak, and it may not have ended very well for either of us. I feel like we didn’t spend enough time together when I was around at home, and I feel bad about it now when I look back. It’s terrible to even think about this now because it’s clear the reason I think this way is because he is gone now. It makes me feel really crappy.


The wedding industry in this country will make you go crazy when you see the overwhelming number of things that you could spend money on and how much each of those individual things could cost. One of the things you could potentially “invest” in would be calligraphy, as in, calligraphy of the addresses on your invitation envelopes, calligraphy for your invitations themselves and all wedding stationery, as well as the calligraphy that writes out every sign or post at your wedding. I have decent hand writing, but not writing that I would want to grace all my wedding signs, so I started looking into how much work this would entail if I could do this myself.

I found a great website that even has videos and downloadable guides for different types of calligraphy last night, and apparently all I have to do is invest $5-10 in a calligraphy pen set, and I can achieve “the look” I am going for myself instead of spending $2-5 per invitation for someone else to write it out for me. There’s even a calligraphy hack where you can trace the letters and run over them again with the same color ink, and no one would know it was a hack except you.

It’s the little wins sometimes.