Grand Avenue in Elmhurst

After our Costco haul yesterday, we drove back to my original neighborhood in Queens to visit Tangra Masala, one of my favorite restaurants in New York City, if not on the entire face of this earth. I cannot think of anything tastier than the fusion of Chinese and Indian cuisine — the two most populous countries on earth. They now have a larger banquet location in Sunnyside, plus a Manhattan location that we’ve been getting delivery from in the last few years, but it’s not quite the same to eat their lollipop chicken at home vs. having it fresh out of the fryer at their restaurant. Plus, here, I get nostalgic about my first few years in New York, as I was a regular here and oftentimes got takeout from here on nights I didn’t feel like cooking. As they were then, they are still cash only, though they have fully renovated both the tiny interior as well as their front. They no longer look like a total no-frills, shabby spot like they used to.

I realized that despite having lived in that neighborhood for four years, I’d never taken advantage of their lunch specials, so today, we ordered their Tangra Masala fish, vegetable kofte Manchurian, which came with a tasty and spicy slaw, rice, and soups, and of course, the lollipop chicken. We got their corn soup and the hot and sour soup, and both were excellent — super flavorful, and the hot and sour soup was packed with different vegetables and tofu. I regretted rarely branching out from my staple dishes as we slurped their soups. And of course, their lollipop chicken was excellent — and a pleasant surprise: we got not five pieces, but SIX! The crunchiness and fragrance of eating them fresh was unmatchable. Love this spot and hope they continue to stay in business forever. We were happy while being the only indoor diners in seeing that many people were stopping by to pick up takeout orders, plus their phones were constantly ringing with more orders on the way.

Salted duck egg yolk products

Today, we took the day off, and Chris rented a Zip Car to take us to the Long Island City location of Costco. I hadn’t been to this location likely since 2010, and it had changed quite a bit: the products on offer seem a lot more Asian, and I cannot remember the fact that the ready to eat food was in a totally separate location than the regular merchandise. There’s an entire halal meat section, plus a freezer section that seemed to just be for different styles of Asian noodles and dumplings. In addition, there’s an entire section for local and niche craft beers, so we picked up two types, one of which is a small New York State brewery.

One item that has been particularly trendy across Asia in the last couple of years has been salted duck egg yolk products, and they’ve slowly made their way over to the U.S. A few of the Asian bakeries and restaurants have been selling them, but I hadn’t been compelled to buy any of the products just yet until I saw a whole box of salted egg yolk cookies at Costco – 60 individually wrapped cookies for just shy of $10. If I remember, a small bag of similar cookies at a bakery were $6. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to commit to this, especially since if I didn’t like it, I’d have a lot of cookies lying around, but Chris insisted that I just get it. I mean, to the point I made a few posts ago…. I’m not traveling or indulging in anything else, so why not buy it now?! So we picked it up and added it to what ended up being our $435 Costco haul. On average, we probably spend anywhere from $300-450 at Costco once per quarter, so this is pretty normal for us. I will report back when I try these cookies.

Reflections at work

Our team has a bi-weekly team meeting where we all get together, talk about numbers, team results and goals, major projects in progress, and we also have a quick section where one person on the team shares “reflections” on something of their choosing, which is usually personal. My manager asked me to do the reflections for today, so I decided… I’m going to tell everyone how American I am in my obsession with productivity, with always doing something, that I got so obsessed with “making the most” of the sheltering in place due to the pandemic, that I ended up giving myself cubital tunnel syndrome as a result of it. And so I had to learn to slow down and ease my obsession with always “doing something,” and also took up meditation to slow my mind down.

My colleague, who I am friendly with, sent me a book recommendation in light of my reflection — Jenny Odell’s “How to Do Nothing,” which would likely aid in my desire to slow down. Yes, reading is actually doing something, but I like the idea of the book: resisting the attention economy.

When your American jam is too sweet

Haskap berry jam from Prince Edward Island. Passion fruit jam from Paris. Lingonberry jam from Sweden. Quince peach cinnamon compote from London. During our travels, we’ve been gifted or purchased small jars of jam when we come across something unique or different than what we have easy access to in New York. And for the longest time, we barely touched any of the jars since pre-pandemic, we rarely bought bread at home, and even if we did, I’d need to store it, sliced, in our freezer because we were never home enough to eat it all before it went bad. Then once the pandemic began, we started going through all the jars, one by one. And finally, we had our last smear of haskap jam (TOTALLY OBSESSED; I’ve looked into mail ordering it from PEI) from the same company), and Chris got concerned and immediately started thinking about buying raspberry jam. So he went off to Trader Joe’s, picked up a jar of raspberry jam, and on a weekend we had it on toast…. and realized immediately how cloyingly sweet it was, like TOO SWEET, like we were just eating sugar with a sprinkle of fruit in it.

This is what happens when you become so accustomed to having jams that are made in small batches, by small businesses who are interested in showing you the real flavors of fruit, rather than the mass produced, bulk packaged commercial jams that people in today’s fast moving society just readily accept as “normal.”

A couple weeks later, Chris made us do a detour to the Greenmarket in Union Square to get a small batch jar of Beth’s jam. We’ll see if it’s any less sweet than this Trader Joe’s raspberry jam.

Food spend in the last year

Chris loves to look at trends in our spending year over year, and he noted that in 2020, unsurprisingly, our grocery and takeout/delivery food spend was at its all-time highest levels. Part of the reason it is like that is not just because we were all sheltering in place, not just because we couldn’t dine out at restaurants, but it’s also because all of our work and pleasure travel was completely cancelled. A lot of our spending on dining out, indulgent/specialty foods or drinks happens when we are traveling. During travel is when we’d pick up things we normally wouldn’t find here in New York, such as haskap berry jam, passion fruit jam, a South Australia wine vinegar, or a dong ding oolong loose leaf tea from a very specific region in Taiwan. In 2020, I surprisingly not only drank ALL my tea that I got in China with the exception of some high end loose leafs that I’m spreading out (and… I got a LOT), but I nearly went through my entire supply of Sri Lankan Dilmah tea, which we usually get when we’re in Australia because they do not seem to distribute to the U.S. So that led me to buy matchas, some other sencha and genmaicha green teas from the Japanese grocery store, and also a few Nepali teas. With the world at your finger tips, I’ve been relying on online sources to send me the world to enjoy through my mouth. We’ve also been more indulgent with things we normally don’t buy much of, such as Indian sweets. This last weekend when we were in Jackson Heights, we spent nearly $38 on rasmalai, gulab jamun, pista rolls, and kesar ladoos from our favorite sweets shop, Maharaja Sweets. It was a record! I normally never get more than a pound of sweets there (the pricing is roughly about $11-12/lb, depending on which sweet you choose).

We have saved a lot of money because of the pandemic, but we’ve also managed to indulge in other areas, and with us, “indulging” tends to be through food.

Taking this Friday off

Chris and I are both lucky in that we randomly get days off from work because of the pandemic. At my work, we call them ‘wellness days.” At his work, I don’t know what they call them, but they are just as random as mine are. Since he had a wellness day this Friday, he suggested I take the day off so that we could go to Costco. I looked at him and said, why do I have to take the day off when it’s your wellness day, but when I have a wellness day, you don’t want to take the day off? He basically went on his little spiel about how it’s harder for him to take days off when everyone else is working because “so much is going on.” That honestly seemed like a cop-out way of trying to say that his work is more important than mine, but given the fact that I have only taken two days off since beginning this job in September, I figured I might as well just take the day off and have some time away from a computer. And also, I’m not working in an emergency room, so nothing I am doing is that urgent or needs to be attended to immediately (he also does not work in an emergency room, but he can certainly treat his work as “importantly” as he wants to).

So, I’m taking a day off. These three days are the only days when I’ve taken a day off and not really traveled… like REALLY traveled. It’s an adjustment for me, but maybe that’s what I need to do more of: take random days off just for myself, even if I have nothing really to do… because that will be better for my health overall, mental and physical. I really do need to be better about “doing nothing” in a world that is constantly judging you based on productivity.

Using meditation to reset your mind

I was chatting with my therapist this past week about how, pretty much ever since I started meditating, all of my anxiety, anger, and stress-filled dreams seemed to have come to a full halt. She asked me when I would normally do my meditation. My original goal was to do it in the morning as a way to start my day, but that quickly got derailed by the fact that I’m never on time at the gym (my appointment time is always 8am Monday through Friday, but I’m lucky if I make it there by 8:05; 8:10-8:15 is more realistic), and if that is not on time, I will never start my work day “on time.” So I decided that in the evenings, shortly before bed, would be the best time. It would be regular. I’d feel zero rush to get anything else done before or after, as the only thing waiting for me after meditation would be sleep.

“Well, that completely makes sense to me!” she exclaimed. “You’re basically resetting your mind, clearing it of all the clutter that filled your mind throughout the day, and that’s allowing you to have more peaceful dreams. It’s not always the content of your dreams that is meaningful, but rather that’s the way it just manifests in your subconscious.”

So her suggestion to me moving forward is that whenever I have stressors or feel a depressive episode coming on, whether they are fertility related or anything, I should step away from the situation and meditate, whether that means doing a quick visualization or breathing exercise, and treat it the same way I treat nightly meditation. That would allow me to reset, refocus, and just bring more calm to my mind. It could take only a minute or five, but that would be enough for me to readjust.

It’s a good idea… once I need to put it into practice, I’ll see how effective it is for me.

Dosa Delight

Today, we went to Jackson Heights, one of my favorite neighborhoods on earth, to eat and explore. We hadn’t been back to our go-to spot for dosas, Dosa Delight, since 2019, so Chris wanted us to eat there. We got two dosas and mango lassis and ate inside, where they had some tables blocked off for indoor dining and some reserved for indoor dining given the limited indoor dining laws with the ongoing pandemic. When Chris went to wash his hands after we finished eating and our check was brought to us, the owner, who was actually our server, told me that they were really struggling and not doing well, and that they’d really appreciate it if we could write them good reviews on Yelp and Google if we enjoyed our food and experience.

That just broke my heart. He was so attentive to us throughout our meal, asking us if we were enjoying everything and if the food was up to par. When he said this to me, I could see the hurt in his eyes. It just felt so sad. This restaurant has been in business for over 35 years, and we’ve been regular patrons for over 10. The idea that this restaurant could get decimated by the pandemic would just be so upsetting. I don’t even know what could possibly replace it for us.

I had already taken video footage of the restaurant, planning to make an Instagram video of it, and maybe a TikTok one. Now, I’ve also got to write reviews for them, hoping they will survive this madness.

Elbow flare-up from cubital tunnel

I stopped seeing my physical therapist at the end of December. We had reached a “steady point” where he wasn’t really teaching me any new exercises or stretches, and my pain/stress was manageable. Other than tweaking parts of my computer setup, trying my best to refrain from doing activities that would stress my ulnar nerve, resting, and continuing my nerve flossing exercises, there wasn’t much for me to do, he said. I also got irritated remembering when he told me that the tightness and weakness I felt in my ring and pinky fingers had nothing to do with my ulnar nerve. A quick Google search reveals that the ulnar nerve originates in your neck, goes all the way down your arm through the inside of your elbow, and then ends in your pinky finger and half your ring finger.

I had a flare up this past Saturday while holding a heavy bag of groceries in my right hand. Prior to that moment of tension in my elbow, I’d never experienced that symptom of pain when carrying anything, which my PT said was unusual. Usually when someone has ulnar nerve issues, they cannot hold beyond a certain weight, but with me up until that point, I was totally fine. And well, now, I’m not. That was a little depressing.

So since Saturday, I’ve been icing nightly, refraining from too much phone use, and trying my best to stay off a computer (other than for work). I also decided to start looking for new exercises and stretches to do, and funnily enough, the exercises I am finding on YouTube made by other physical therapists seem to be helping me more than the ones that my PT taught me.

This only makes me believe less in our stupid medical system and more in YouTube and self-treatment. It’s like no one can help me except myself.

Bolognese for dinner on a weeknight

One thing I don’t mind about working from home full-time is the ability to cook food on the weekdays. Pre pandemic, I mostly did most of our cooking on Sundays, but given the flexibility of work, time between meetings, and a lack of commute, now I have more time to cook on the weekdays. Oftentimes, with just a little prep work, I can toss things into my Instant Pot or oven, and food will be ready for dinner time. One thing you never think you can make on a weeknight would be bolognese, a rich, meaty, Italian sauce that usually takes hours and hours to braise over a low flame on the stove. I tried finding recipes to allow it to be made in the Instant Pot, but they seemed too tomato forward. My favorite Bolognese has always been the ones that use tomato paste vs. several cups of canned whole tomatoes. In that sense, it’s more of a hearty meaty sauce with tomato flavor rather than a tomato sauce with meat in it.

So I decided to use a bolognese recipe that uses white wine, two small cans of tomato paste, and for the beef, I used the remaining two pounds of wagyu minced beef I picked up from Costco. During lunch time at around noon yesterday, I got the base of the sauce made while eating lunch (with all the mirepoix prep the night before). Then, between meetings and work tasks, I would take a little time to stir the mixture occasionally and replenish the water when needed. By the time 5:15 rolled around, the bolognese had already been stewing for over four hours, and all that was needed was the pasta to get cooked.

Four-hour-plus braised homemade tagliatelle bolognese on a weeknight. That is definitely a pandemic-era meal.