Eleven Madison Park granola adjustments

After getting such rave reviews from Chris’s parents and Chris about the Eleven Madison Park-style granola I made a few weeks ago, I decided that since I had so much extra oats (and well, I’m not a big regular oatmeal person) that I would make a second batch today. I made the same additions by adding in flax and chia seeds, plus macadamia nuts, as last time. But this time, I increased the amount of sea salt. The original recipe calls for an entire tablespoon (that’s three teaspoons!) of sea salt. I’m pretty salt conservative/sensitive (whatever you want to call that), so for the first batch, I used only a teaspoon. Given that I could barely taste any salt in that, I decided, why not increase that to two teaspoons this time? And to me, I think this batch came out nearly perfectly with a good combination of both salty and sweet. Chris, while he enjoyed it (he never eats granola ever, but this time, he’s actually snacking on this before and after dinner!), says the first batch was better and this was a tad too salty for him.

Maybe the compromise for the next batch will be 1.5 teaspoons? I’ve just never been able to find granola I really loved from the store, so in both cases of making this granola and my hemp granola two years ago, these have been my favorites. It just tastes too processed, even when most of these brands claim to be organic/non-GMO/yada yada. Homemade granola-only in this household from now on.

Stood up

My foster care mentee messaged me a few days ago asking if we could meet this Friday, so I left work early to meet her at a nearby matcha tea spot that is usually packed with crowds and has a line. This time, I luckily got there a few minutes early when there was not only available seating, but also no line. I got excited and texted her, telling her I’d get her drink and have it ready for when she arrived since I wanted to save us a table. 

So I got the drinks and sat myself down… and waited for half an hour. She never showed up. I texted her a few times, called twice. No response. I was really confused. This was really unlike her. She’s rarely even late, and most of the time, she’s even early.

Was she in trouble? Did something happen to her? She had just texted me around noon to confirm the location.

So I left, feeling half stood up, half concerned. I sat there for such a long time that I’m sure other people in the shop were wondering if I were on a blind date and just got stood up. I brought the extra matcha drink home to Chris, who drank half of it already watered down by the melted ice, and I myself had the extra half dose of matcha.

Later this evening, she finally got back to me and said that her social worker forced her to stay extra long for their session, and the room they put her in had zero reception. She apologized profusely and said she felt horrible.

As long as she’s okay and not in harm’s way, I was fine about it. It’s just always uncertain what really happens when things like this occur.

Mentoring at work

In my new and elevated role at work, I am being turned to for mentoring both formally (new hires) and informally (through our internal team mentoring program). I was sitting with my colleague who I oftentimes chat with as my new mentee. He sat there and as I would expect, complained to me about his current situation, not being in the line of sight for a promotion, and how he keeps getting told he doesn’t have “executive polish” and needs to work on it. When asked how to improve his “level” of executive polish, he is given no concrete tactics to help this “area of growth.”

I’ve actually watched him present, so I gave him some suggestions. In his case, he lacks poise and confidence both in areas such as his posture and voice. I suggested ways for him to share little anecdotes of other customers and even his own stories in relevant ways during presentations, to speak with more volume and authority during meetings. It’s amazing what wearing an outfit you are proud of or even standing a certain way can do for you when others view you while you are speaking.

“All this is really helpful, and it’s not even that hard to pinpoint if you observe me,” he said, thanking me for my suggestions. “Why wasn’t my own manager or anyone else who works more closely with me able to share this with me?”

I did not respond to that.

when the ignorant discuss topics as though they are experts

As a woman and a person of color, I am oftentimes amused, baffled, and at times even enraged when I think about all the conversations that I overhear about topics being discussed by people who have no clue about the realities of the topics they are discussing. It ranges from the stupid generalizations I hear of people who have traveled to maybe one or two cities in a country and are now somehow making massive all-encompassing statements about x country in comparison to this country or others they have visited, to a bunch of white men gathered around a table discussing diversity – no woman at the table, no person from the LGBTQ community, no black, brown, yellow, or blue person. What exactly do anyof you know about what you are discussing, anyway? 

Then there’s the generalization of old white men in Alabama today making decisions that affect women in the form of not only banning abortion, but making it illegal for doctors to perform the operation, without exceptions for incest or rape. While all of that is horrible and completely lacking of empathy or any ability to relate given that no man will ever have the opportunity to understand how horrific this situation could personally be, I would even go so far as to say that women who identify as pro-life and consider abortion “baby-killing” likely have zero idea how judgmental, unempathetic, and wrong they are in their opinions. It’s not really anyone’s place to be deciding what any one person decides for her own body. That’s like regulating when someone decides to cut their hair or pee. Leave them alone. It doesn’t affect you at all. How does this affect your life…?

I oftentimes think back to my last workplace where one of my colleagues was five months pregnant, and at five months, the fetus suddenly stopped growing. And she had to face the absolutely horrifying decision to either a) abort the baby (which was essentially dead), or b) take the risk of ‘carrying it to term’ and giving birth to a dead body and suffering massive potential health consequences. Given she lived in San Francisco, she was actually able to make choice A… as painful and depressing as it was. But I’ve read other cases where women had similar situations when they were not so lucky to live in a progressive city or state, and thus were forced to take major health risks and carry the fetus to term. Some of these stories have resulted in significant health ramifications that never seem to get brought up when the topic of “pro-choice or pro-life” debated.

We have no idea what we don’t know… until we learn it. So why are we all trying to regulate the bodies of other people? Why does the Republican Party, who prides itself on being for small government, want to have “big government” specifically when it comes to making personal decisions for women, who represent over half our population?!

Until this week, I didn’t even realize that New York State bans abortions after about 20 weeks. It’s even nearly impossible to get an abortion in New York City, LAND OF PROGRESS. That’s my city where I live right now, today! Even in a land where Roe v. Wade has been the law of the land over 46 years, people still can’t accept reality and still try to oppress vulnerable women who need the most support of them all. The progress we have made is slowly being rolled back and destroyed. And that “progress” is still a long time coming and has a long way to go.

These are the moments when I am so ashamed to be a part of this country. This is really when the lack of funding in education, the overall lack of knowledge in this country is just so painfully apparent and excruciatingly raw.

Overloaded with meat

For Chris’s dad’s birthday today, we took him to Danji for dinner this evening for their tasting menu. New York City has been experiencing a big wave of modern Korean/Korean-fusion restaurants, and while some of them have been hit or miss, Danji and its sister restaurant Hanjan have been really great dining experiences with high quality and local ingredients. Danji provided the second “tasting menu” of Korean food we’d ever had, and while I enjoyed it a lot, I’ll be honest and say that it was a bit too meat-heavy. Tasting menus should be a good balance of meat, seafood, vegetables, and starches. In this tasting menu, the majority of the dishes were pork and beef based, and there were very few vegetables outside of the different varieties of kimchi and radish that were presented. I wish there was more fish and other types of seafood that were presented. I realized this as the dishes progressed and came out, and towards the end of the meal when we ended up not finishing the final savory course, I found myself feeling bloated and really uncomfortable, and I had a feeling it was probably from the amount of meat we had overall. It was so uncomfortable that I had troubles falling asleep that night… and if I thought about it, the sheer amount of meat was not even that much. It wasn’t like I had a big steak or other massive slab of meat to myself. Ugh.

Keep it down

Tonight, Chris, his parents, and I went to dinner with Chris’s mom’s cousin and his wife, who happen to live just four blocks away from our apartment in Hell’s Kitchen. We usually see them once a year when Chris’s parents are in town. The more I have seen his mom’s cousin’s wife, the more funny I think she is. She is extremely gregarious and social, very opinionated, and quite loud in volume. The last part always cracks me up, especially when she laughs. Like me, she has a loud laugh, and I always love how when she laughs, her husband seems to have a somewhat sheepish look on his face, and sometimes even asks her to lower her voice and calm down. He asked her to do this tonight when she was talking about a series on Amazon Prime about Indian wedding planners and being open about sex. I loved every second of this story, especially her facial expressions as she was describing bits of it.

It’s a bit of a gendered expectation, isn’t it, to expect your wife to be quiet (or quieter, in this case), to not laugh as much, to be less vocal or lower in volume. They have children who are high school- and college-age, so they are older than us, but I am always relieved when I witness little gendered gestures like these that I am not married to someone who tells me to keep my voice down and not to laugh as much or as loud. I’m loud when I laugh, and well, everyone just has to deal with it. And if they want to be as loud, they can certainly join the party.

Hoover Presidential Library and Museum

Because West Branch, the town where the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum is located, is two hours east of Des Moines, we unfortunately didn’t have enough time to see or do anything else on our last day in Iowa. But I actually got a glimpse of Herbert Hoover that I’d never quite seen before. In school, I feel like my history classes glossed over Hoover as a president. He was the president of the U.S. during the Great Depression and eventually got pushed out by FDR. He’s often been noted as one of the worst and most useless presidents in U.S. history. He’s also been blamed for exacerbating the Great Depression, as well.

But I didn’t realize that before he became president, he was well respected as an engineer and eventually as a humanitarian during World War I by leading hunger-relief efforts in Europe as the head of the American Relief Administration. Many people in Belgium looked at him as a savior since he provided food for those suffering famine. It’s odd that someone who was so helpful to Europeans during a time of crisis and who had traveled to and lived in Australia and China would not only be isolationist but also conservative and perceived as callous, insensitive, and unaware.

Visiting presidential libraries has educated me about U.S. history in a way that my history classes in school never did. Of course, the presidential libraries are always going to paint each respective president in a flattering way, so. it will take some effort and proactivity to read between the lines. It would be a good idea to do a tour of presidential libraries as a child, as well as of the vast variety of history museums, to supplement all children’s learning in this country… though it would certainly be costly. But it would provide a more well-rounded perspective of what this country is actually made of.

Yuppie prices in non-yuppie cities

After doing some exploration in the Des Moines area yesterday, we did a day trip to Omaha, Nebraska, and went into my 44th state (and Chris’s 46th state). My general feeling of Omaha is that it seems more interesting of a place to visit than Des Moines, with a few more tourist attractions, including the Durham Museum and overall better art museums, as well as a few quirky neighborhoods that would warrant some extra strolling and exploring. It also helps that Warren Buffet is from here (and, well, he still lives here, in the same house he bought in 1958 for $31,500)!. We actually drove past his house just to take a look at it.

Chris and I almost never check any bags during our travel, and especially during three-day weekend trips around the country; that would be nearly blasphemy to him. The only exceptions to this are to and from Australia (for things like Christmas gifts, packing his supply of Arnott’s Tim Tams and other chocolates until his next trip), or places like Japan and Korea (where we all know I will be stocking up on beauty products and green tea/cherry-blossom/Asian-flavors of all things I can put in my mouth). We didn’t even check bags to and from Italy, Spain, or Portugal — all delicious foodie places where I could have easily brought back a lot of wine, olive oil, sardines, etc. But when we went to the Old Market Farmers Market, one of the most popular farmers’ markets that is open on Saturdays here in Omaha, somehow we all found ourselves captivated by the It’s All About Bees honey stand, which makes and sells raw and flavored honeys, jams, as well as other body products made from local honey. Honeys, with their antibacterial properties and health benefits, have gotten quite expensive, so it was actually a surprise to see these honeys which were raw and still reasonably priced, whether it was for a small 6 oz. container or a larger 24 oz. container. Their variety of honey was extremely extensive, and they generously allow you to sample pretty much all of them. We collectively ended up buying six jars of honey, mostly driven because Chris’s mom wanted to buy some, so Chris said that since this would require a checked bag that we might as well buy some, too. We bought all three of their varieties of raw honey (plain, orange blossom, and buckwheat), and also the lavender (I’m currently obsessed with all things lavender that are edible and even bought a bag of organic lavender for cooking purposes — it’s so good!). To think that we ended up checking a bag from a place like Iowa/Nebraska over Italy or Spain!!

The most amusing thing to me about visiting farmers markets around the country is that even when you might think that things may be cheaper just because you’re no longer in a major city, this definitely is almost never the case with “trendy” or “yuppie” products like hand-crafted soaps, lip balms, hand salves, and coffee. While the honey was cheaper than what I was expecting, all the pricing for these other items we saw were competitive with farmers’ markets back in San Francisco and New York — about $3.50-4 for lip balms, $10-20 for hand salves, and $16-18 for a 12 oz. bag of locally roasted (and very strong) whole coffee beans (wow – that’s just like Stumptown pricing!). The coffee stand we stopped at for a sample even had Keurig cups for their coffee. I marveled at this. “Hey, I’m a capitalist so….” the vendor said, smiling.

I suppose the demand for these items is everywhere, so everywhere a segment of the population will always be wiling to pay these higher prices for what they perceive to be a higher quality good.

43rd state

We’re taking Chris’s parents this long weekend to Iowa and Nebraska. It’s always a bit comical taking two Aussies to states in the middle of the United States. When sharing happily with random strangers (since his dad is the chatty type), he’s always so excited to share that he’s going somewhere new. In regards to travel around the world, upgrades on flights and hotels, his dad is like a kid in a candy shop.

But of course, his joy and excitement is always met by blank stares, confusion, and “WTF” expressions. “Why are you going there?” he’s inevitably asked.

He always shares this with us, to which Chris always responds, “So what? I don’t care what other people think. We’re going!”

I oftentimes think that the same people who ask questions like this are the same people who are still confused by the results of the 2016 presidential election. And that is very, very dangerous. If we cannot understand the issues and mistakes of the past, then how will we ever learn and progress forward as individuals or as a nation? That is why history is so important… yet somehow, this still doesn’t click with so many.

Tibetan cuisine

One of the greatest things about New York City is the incredibly diverse and delicious food you can get here. Having lived in Queens for four years, I still keep going back to that borough even though I no longer live there because of the vast diversity in cuisines represented there (and at low price points). Tibetan and Nepalese food has interested me more and more as the years have gone on, with its spices and chilies, as well as its thick knife-cut noodles and momo dumplings. We took Chris’s parents to a Tibetan restaurant in Elmhurst, my own neighborhood, for dinner tonight, and had a delicious meal of noodles, dumplings, and spicy and garlicky vegetables. They were spicy in a hot and numbing way, and also well seasoned. The dumplings bursted with hot broth. In these moments while eating these meals, I feel very proud to have lived in Queens, and even happier to live here in New York where I have such easy access to this kind of food.

One of the most amusing dishes we had was the yellow fen, which was essentially yellow rolled rice noodles filled with… instant ramen noodles. The server told us that these noodles are either served stuffed with tofu or “noodle.” She didn’t mention that the noodles were instant, though. They were crunchy and spicy. Chris ate these and marveled at what the filling of these noodles were… until I told him that they were instant ramen. 😀