the usual routine when coming home

I arrived at my parents’ house this evening to my mom peering out the window. She had already buzzed the gate in anticipation of my arrival home. She has been under the weather, so she didn’t give me the usual hug and kiss, but instead kept walking around me as I unpacked my bags and gifts for her, asking me endless questions. She’s so excited to see me that she bombards me with questions, asking about everything from the food I ate on the plane to weather the flight attendants were nice to me. It’s the way she shows she cares and loves, I suppose.

Then, my dad poked his head out of his bedroom and greeted me from down the hallway. He asked how my flight was, if everything was smooth and on time. Then, he went back into his room and onto his computer. It’s the usual routine: a little small talk and a greeting, and then back to his usual hermit self.

I don’t really know if this behavior annoys me anymore. If anything, it’s more just a routine with the way my parents are. Their behavior at this point in my life is extremely predictable, as they always go through the same questions, the same motions, the same exhibition of their own foibles. Perhaps predictability isn’t necessarily a bad thing in this case.

Packing to go home

After work today, I went home to eat dinner and start packing for my visit home for the next week and a half. I don’t know why packing to go back to San Francisco is so annoying and tends to take me longer than any other packing. Part of it is because I don’t really know what the weather will be like since it’s so unpredictable, and the other part of it is that I usually bring gifts home for my parents and friends, and I have to sift through all the things I’ve collected since the last trip and make sure I don’t forget anything. That process is really annoying. I also get annoyed thinking about what my mom will say about what I bring her back. Sometimes she seems satisfied, while other times, she asks, “That’s it?” as though she was expecting more things or other things. That’s certainly not the most grateful answer/response, but well, that’s who she is.

Then, I have to think about all my parents’ new dietary restrictions. In theory, they love Tim Tams, but my mom has been told she is pre-diabetic, so she’s avoiding most sugars, even cutting out rice and bread. The bread part wasn’t an issue; the rice part certainly is. My dad complains about pretty much anything that isn’t a vegetable or fruit since his bypass surgery. But he will still eat most things. In those cases, I usually ignore his complaining.

We’ll see how this round of gifts are received this time.



Fitness in the winter

Yesterday, I had my first rigorous workout since coming back from Vietnam and getting over my cold. I’d been exercising the last two weeks, but I was definitely doing less strenuous routines and also running at slower paces to get my body back into the rhythm of morning exercise. It’s still been a struggle to get up in the morning, especially knowing how cold it is once I leave my bed and bedroom, but I’ve been trying.

But it felt good to work out. Before 10am, I already had over 7,500 steps logged on my Garmin, and I felt energized the way I did before our trip. This is when exercise gets addictive — the feeling you get after of accomplishment and renewed energy. Nothing really beats that feeling of getting your body active and feeling like you did something good for it. It also helps me think more clearly throughout the day, too.

Now, I just need to keep pushing myself to wake up early enough to work out and get to work on time. The usual winter challenge… mind vs. body…



New York Subway etiquette

At work, we were sitting around the lunch table today when one of my colleagues was complaining about people on the subway who enter the subway car and do not actually move in. When multiplied by hundreds, what this ends up resulting in is hoards of people crowding around the subway door, creating the fake appearance that the car is full, when in fact, the middle of every single car has plenty of standing space. And don’t even get me started on the seats that are empty in the middle that no one sits on. If you want to create more space… then people need to sit down in those seats!

“You know who’s a New Yorker and who’s new to this city or a visitor when you see people crowding around the doors,” my colleague said. “Real New Yorkers don’t crowd by the doors.”

I don’t know how you define “real New Yorker.” I’ve been living here 10.5 years, and I don’t do that. I end up annoying people by saying “excuse me” and pushing my way into the center of the car. In fact, I don’t see enough people being aggressive enough to do that. So I don’t really think what my colleague is saying is true. If anything, New Yorkers have a reputation of being all in it for themselves, so if that is truly the case, then by definition, the behavior crowding around the doors would be in line with that.

I’m happy to push my way through the subway car, though. If anything, I’m doing everyone else a favor by getting in and making use of the real space in the middle that actually exists.


Sri Lankan dal

Although since leaving Vietnam, all of what I’ve been wanting to eat is Vietnamese, I have to admit that I actually do miss eating beans. We had mung beans in various forms in Vietnam, as they are heavily used in the cuisine in popular dishes like banh xeo and che, but given the frigid temperatures we’ve been experiencing here in New York, what I’ve been thinking about the last few days has been dal, or lentils. Chris usually hates on vegetarian food, but he doesn’t complain when I make things like dal, maybe because he grew up eating that, and well, Indians make sure their beans are extremely flavorful and tasty because of all the different spices and chilies they put in them. Dal is usually on  Indian dinner tables nightly, and I can see why — they are wholesome, extremely nutritious, flavorful once spiced, and quick to prepare and cook. Lentils are probably the most nutrient-dense food on earth, especially given that they are pretty much smaller than tear drops!

So this weekend, I used a new recipe by a modern Indian-American cook for Sri Lankan-style dal with coconut and lime kale. Sri Lankan spices tend to mirror South Indian spices given their proximity to that part of Asia, so they similarly use a lot of coconut, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and chilies. The dal, once simmered, is finished with a bit of coconut milk to give it richness, and also a quick stir-fry of kale with shredded coconut and spices for additional texture and of course, vegetables. It definitely satisfied my lentils craving. I plan on making more lentils this winter to keep warm and toasty.

Going-away party

I moved to New York City 10.5 years ago, thinking I’d live and work in New York anywhere from 3-4 years, then eventually move back to San Francisco or somewhere in California. I never really thought that I would be the one in New York going to other people’s going-away parties, people who are originally from here, while still being here.

There were at least 20 people at the party, so I didn’t get that much time to talk to my friend and his fiancee, who are moving to Seattle for at least the next two years. He actually already moved about seven months ago, but this time, his fiancee will be joining him, as well. These going-aways always make me feel a little sad. Even though I’m very happy with our life, when others move away, it almost feels like their lives are moving on, and my life is not. I’m not even sure how to describe it. Then again, I was the one who moved here from San Francisco/Boston 10.5 years ago, so it’s not like I’ve never moved or tried something new or different. The other thing that I grapple with is keeping in touch with friends who were considered close who end up moving away. It’s hard. People’s attention spans are short in an age of instant gratification and social media and texting. No one really wants to talk on the phone anymore to catch up. Planning video chats is cumbersome with time zones and fading interest in keeping connected. People want to be connected with the people who are in proximity of them. So these friendships end up falling to the wayside.

Despite all this, though, the desire to proactively make new friends is waning for me, too. The idea of it is nice… but the effort that goes into it seems frustrating. I remember all my failed attempts to go to Meetup groups and never meeting anyone I found even remotely interesting. Then, there was the one person I met at a dance class who I liked, but every time she asked me to come hang out with her, I was traveling for work or pleasure, or already had plans. So she ended up thinking I was flaky. And I’m not interested in meeting friends of friends of friends at group dinners of 6 or more random people all getting together because they have one person in common… especially if they are all the same race. Someone who is a friend’s friend  recently asked to catch up over dinner… but wanted to invite 10 other people at the same time. That is not catching up properly. So I just didn’t respond.

Maybe I should try a seeking-friends app with exactly what I am looking for. That might actually work out better so I can immediately weed out people who are disappointing.

We are becoming plastic.

After work today, I went to pick up Uniqlo pants that I had to get shortened. When you are petite, this unfortunately has to be a frequent occurrence, but I will admit that some brands are becoming more empathetic, like Ann Taylor, Loft, and Banana Republic. Even brands like Uniqlo that come from Asia still do not grasp the fact that not every woman out there is 5’9” or 5’10”.

While I was in line to pick up my pants, I was thinking about the last time I bought these same pants and how long they lasted. These pants on average cost about $30/pair, and they lasted me about 2.5 years- that’s 30 months. So that really means that I paid $1/month to wear these pants for the last 30 months. You know it’s time to get new pants when the crotch area starts thinning out and eventually starts becoming a growing hole.

This actually started making me think about the decline of clothes in general, though. If you think about it, $1/month to wear a pair of pants that was very comfortable and got a lot of wear seems like a good price to pay. But what if the same pair of pants had the same cost and could last twice as long? More and more, when I look at clothing labels, fewer and fewer things are made from cotton and wool, and instead, they are made from synthetic materials made from variations of plastic, like polyester, rayon, and acrylic. It’s obviously cheaper, which is why mainstream clothing companies are using it, but it’s sad to think that we’re all just becoming and wearing more plastic. We live in a world now where cotton and wool are becoming too expensive to wear on a daily basis. We may jus become plastic bottles ourselves.



Gin and tonic

Tonight, we organized a company-sponsored happy hour to say goodbye to one of our colleagues who was temporarily based out of the New York City office for the last year. He’s originally from the Bay Area, and he and his girlfriend spent the last year living here with his girlfriend finishing up her degree. The place we went to was a mid priced spot in the Nomad area of town, and with cocktails ranging from $14-18, I figured it would probably be safe to order a gin and tonic.

Boy, was I wrong.

For me, my liquor of choice, whenever anyone has asked me, has always been tequila. The problem with tequila (well, there are a lot of problems with tequila…) is that a) most people really hate it, b) even people who can handle alcohol well tend to not do so well when they have tequila-based drinks or a tequila shot; their bodies just do not react well, and this tends to result in the worst hangovers. And then c) there’s no go-to cheap/moderately priced well drink you can easily get with tequila. It’s not like rum and coke or vodka cranberry. What are you supposed to order — a tequila sunrise? Meh, I don’t think so.

Then last month, when we were exploring the Barossa Valley, one unexpected visit to a gin distillery had me hooked right away to gin — no, not crappy gin, but really good gin. But what I learned, and which some other Australians were trying to educate me on a few months at a dinner party, is that while you need to have good quality gin to have a good gin and tonic, the quality of the tonic may also be the maker or breaker of how good that G&T is. This really nice bartender/educator did a tasting with us, and he talked through gins and tonic waters, and he told us that his general rule is that if he’s at a bar and sees the bartender using a hose-dispenser to dispense “tonic,” it’s an immediate pass for him on the G&T. Given my reactions to this whole experience, Chris said that G&Ts could be my go-to drink. While I wanted that to be true, I had a feeling I would probably hate most gin and tonics at most places given how discerning one needs to be when picking out the two main components of this mixed drink.

And tonight, I ordered the gin and tonic… and it was hate at first taste. The second I had the sip in my mouth, I knew it was all wrong. The gin itself tasted fine, but the tonic was just the worst. It was nearly flat. And it had no taste at all. It was subtly sweet, but had zero character. I was mid-conversation when I drank this and really didn’t want to interrupt it to send this horrible drink back. So I sipped it until it was gone, and then got the drinks menu to order a cocktail off the list, which ended up being much, much better.

“Office culture”

The topic of good “work culture” often comes up at offices. Prospective employees interview and ask the question of what the office culture is like – is it positive, is it negative? What are the signs? How would you describe the office’s culture? But in an Instagram post that a colleague showed me, it could just be as simple as this:

“Office culture is someone bringing in donuts and everyone for some reason refusing to take a whole one and cutting off 3/8 of the donut. Then at the end of the day, there’s like 17/25ths of 9 different donuts left.”

It’s relevant today because a customer who’s been refusing to respond to any of my emails has been on my mind; I was determined to get them to accept a meeting with me before the end of this month. Since they are right in the financial district, I decided… what the hell. I’m going to show up at their office with a bag full of bagels and cream cheese. Everyone enjoys food, especially if it’s free. And then, they will feel guilt-ridden and feel like they have to finally accept a meeting with me. And while I’m at it, I”ll grab a dozen for the office, as well, because why not?

So I dropped off the bagels at the customer’s office downtown, then went back up to Flatiron to my office and put the bag of bagels, still warm, on the kitchen counter. And the swarms began immediately. While it was quiet when I came in, once the bagels appeared, the office became boisterous, endless chatter and laughter ensued, and a lot of carbs were consumed. Plus, I got endless “I love yous” and heartfelt thanks… all for a bunch of boiled bread.

That’s “good office culture” right there.


Photo printing at Duane Reade

I’ve really neglected my scrapbooking project for over a year now. My scrapbooking is meant to document our life, and well, mostly our travels, and as of now, I’d completed pages through September 2017, when we went to Hamilton Island for Chris’s cousin’s wedding, and the north island of New Zealand. That means that I’m nearly a year and a half overdue for updating. So the cheapest print option for about 230 4×6 photos ended up being at Duane Read, which I uploaded and ordered yesterday. I went to pick up the photos yesterday and was extremely irritated to find out that a lot of the pictures were poorly printed: faces and main parts of the photos were completely cut off, which made no sense because these were standard images. I ended up having to go to the pharmacy today to manually select every picture that was wrong, crop it exactly as I wanted it, and then had to wait until the end of the day to pick up the revised prints.

It always shocks me that in today’s day and age, when technology has advanced to the point where face recognition and AI are the thing now, that places like Duane Reade or CVS would have such archaic photo printing capabilities. The touch screens are too basic and are not as sensitive to touch as they should be (this results in semi-violent tapping on the bulky monitors), they regularly crash when a USB drive is inserted to read data, and why would there be a cropping option on a photo that was already a 4×6?!