When your brother returns

My good friend is due to give birth any day now. She’s actually supposed to be overdue, as the baby’s due date was this past Saturday, but hey, maybe the baby wanted to wait to come out after the Biden transition was officially approved. Who knows.

Last night, I dreamt that my friend was in labor, and I went to the hospital to go meet the new baby and see how my friend was doing post-birth. Instead of arriving at the hospital and greeting my friend with her baby, I was greeted by my friend in the hospital lobby without the baby anywhere in sight. It appeared as though she had already given birth. I asked her where the baby was, and she said she already came out, and that she was fine. But she wanted to tell me that when she got admitted into the hospital to give birth, at the same time, she saw my brother get admitted into the hospital. Apparently, he had gotten into a serious car accident, and the doctors said that he remained in critical condition.

I was in such shock from this news that I didn’t say anything. I think I tried to open my mouth to say something, but no words came out. I immediately broke down crying, silently sobbing while my friend held me in her arms. In the back of my mind, I was thinking, “Where’s the baby? How is Ed in critical condition from a car accident when he’s supposed to be dead? Is he going to survive this time? What the heck is going on?!”

Air purifier

Because we spend about 90 percent of our time at home now due to the pandemic and working from home, I suggested to Chris a few months ago that we get an air purifier. Not only is it supposed to help with air quality (this thing goes NUTS when I have the gas stove on!!), but it’s also supposed to help with dust management. Now that we are here all the time, constantly shedding skin and hair cells every second, the dust buildup in this apartment has been atrocious. I was maniacally dusting the glass coffee table at least once a week since the beginning of the pandemic, and it was driving me crazy!

He was pretty convinced it wouldn’t do much, but it’s safe to say that after monitoring this air purifier for about a month now, I’ve only had to sponge off the coffee table once. Dusting it once every month vs. once every week is a small enough win for me to think this is worth it. Now, too bad this lack of dust didn’t also extend into the hallway, bathroom, and bedroom…

Massage indulgence

Today, we explored and wandered through Lower Manhattan and ended with a massage in Chinatown. This whole week, while my elbows have been flaring up, I actually started some new exercises at the gym to keep things interesting at the same time. My back has been more tense, and my arms have this weird soreness. I have no idea whether all this is connected to my exercises or my arm/hand condition, but either way, it’s been frustrating and confusing.

The good news is that after my massage, my back and neck did feel quite better, so now we can rule out any injuries and just chalk that up to tension, stress, and perhaps some need to just physically relax. The more annoying thing to think about is: how long are my hands and arms going to have pain and flare-ups? Is this just my new normal that I have to deal with? Or is there really a permanent fix for all this?

When you think you are getting better, and then you aren’t.

When I started seeing my physical therapist about a month ago, I was actually already starting to feel better. I stopped doing a lot of the activities that were causing me pain, like texting with my thumbs, and started doing a lot more stretches and exercises to help improve the mobility and strength of my fingers, hands, wrists, forearms, and arms in general. So when my PT added on new exercises, I could definitely feel an improved strength and mobility, as now I can actually open jars and carry a full mug with just one hand again thankfully, so I thought, oh hey, maybe I won’t have to go to PT anymore!

Well, that all came crashing down this week when I decided to stupidly start using my phone and texting the way I previously did again, along with who the heck knows what else, but my elbows started flaring up. So I told my PT this, and I told him which positions and actions made me feel the pain and burning sensations, and he tentatively concluded that I may have mild cubital tunnel syndrome. Cubital tunnel what?

This is an injury that happens more commonly now with smartphones. Someone holds the phone in front of her with her arms and elbows close to her body. That position, combined with the typing action of the fingers, pushes a nerve the wrong way around your elbow, causing the burning and the pain. My PT said he has two other patients who are in their 20s, so younger than me, with far, far worse symptoms. They can’t even lift their arms over their heads.

So now, along with exercises and stretching, I have to do “nerve gliding” exercises to encourage my nerve to move back into its rightful place… away from my elbow.

Yep. The smartphone will be part of all our demises. Forget the computer and your attempt at ergonomic desk setup. It’s time to blame that evil iPhone now and our terrible addiction to it.

Heat during work

Once upon a time, when I worked at an office, I never really thought much about having the heater or the air conditioner on because the building where I was working or the office manager would take care of those details for me. Now that my “office” is permanently my living room for the forever future, I actually have to think about these things now. And when you turn on the heat or the AC in your apartment, you also have to pay for it, which means that your bill goes up.

Chris tries to hold out as long as possible before turning on the heat most years because he sees it as “caving in” to the inevitable truth that winter has arrived. Yet, between not turning the heat on and turning it on, in between, he will take out his space heater… and point it in his direction. That means it’s going in the opposite direction of where I am sitting, which means… I get no heat. That means I have to either wear more layers or throw on a blanket. Granted, I generally do wear a hoodie or cardigan around the apartment most fall days, but still… what about my heat?

“You can have the heat!” he says defensively, when I make this comment. Mmmmm hmmmm, sure I can…

Cooking supplies during COVID

One interesting thing about being home all the time now is that we obviously spend a lot of time eating at home, which means I end up having to cook a lot more. Before, when a bottle of soy sauce or fish sauce lasted years, now, it seems like they are getting depleted at lightning speed. I’ve already had to replace my light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, fish sauce, and sesame oil bottle this year, and the new light soy sauce bottle is only half full now.

The plus side, though, of eating more at home is that we do have more control over what we are putting in our bodies since we’re preparing all these things from scratch. We’re likely consuming a lot less salt, fat, oil, and sugar. I’m definitely light handed on the salt in general, and I rarely add as much oil as any recipe calls for since I think it’s usually unnecessary. You’d think that if I were cooking more that I must be happier, but I think this past week, I’ve fallen into a bit of a cooking slump. This week, I feel like I’ve been cooking just to use up random scraps or leftovers rather than because I’m actually enjoying the process. This pandemic could definitely be worse, but the number of COVID cases increasing by day in this wretched country is truly terrifying. I can’t really see the light at the end of the tunnel.

TikTok Christmas escape

What’s really annoying about this time of year this specific year is that normally, while the city would be getting much colder, we’d have a European Thanksgiving trip to look forward to, and then a few weeks after that, a summer Christmas in Australia along with a side trip somewhere else inevitably warm and fun in Asia. This year, we have absolutely nothing to look forward to. I have barely taken off any real days off from work this year outside of the first few of the year while in Indonesia, plus the holidays I’ve been given. It’s just been work, work, work in some annoying form or the other. When I’m not doing paid work, I’m working on YmF videos, filming, photographing, editing, posting, promoting. There hasn’t really been much of a “relax” period this year at all. This really sucks.

The only times I seem to be able to zone out are when I ‘escape’ onto Tiktok and waste too many minutes scrolling through people’s Christmas TikTok videos, taking me through New York and other decked out cities anticipating Christmas. New York may look merry and bright, as does London and any other city that gets bedazzled for this time of year, but the mood is definitely sadder and more depressing.

Hachiya persimmons – nature’s pudding

I don’t know why, but unless you are at an ethnic/Asian/Latin grocery store, you probably won’t see hachiya persimmons in the produce section. Maybe it’s because the average Westerner doesn’t have the patience to wait for hachiya persimmons to ripen before eating — who the heck knows? Because of this, for the most part, the only persimmons I’d usually buy each fall would be the fuyu persimmons; these are smaller, flatter, harder, and are eaten skinned and crunchy. These are good, and I do enjoy them, but fuyus really do not hold a candle to hachiyas.

But hachiya persimmons are truly the gem of all persimmons… or rather, the custard or pudding of all persimmons. Persimmons can be much reviled because their skins and flesh are full of tannins, so if you attempt to eat them before they are ripe enough, your mouth will be stung dry, chalky, and surly — not enjoyable or fun. Hachiyas can ONLY be eaten if they are ripe or overly ripe, pretty much mushy inside. You eat them by popping off the green top and cutting out the core in the center, then spooning out all the gooey, deep orange flesh. The flavor is extremely sweet, cinnamon-like honey. Hachiya persimmons are like nature’s (vegan) custard or pudding. It’s no wonder my grandma always loved these each fall season, as she had quite the sweet tooth. She’d buy bags and bags of these from her Chinatown trips, bring them home, and once ripe, dig in. She’d also spoon out plenty of the pudding-like flesh for me to enjoy, too, when I was young. In my mind, I always associate hachiya persimmons with her.

Steamed Cantonese-style fish

Today, I decided to use our remaining four barramundi fillets in the freezer to make a quick and easy Cantonese-style steamed fish. This fish is really the epitome of the simplicity and deliciousness of Cantonese cooking; it uses just a small handful of ingredients (fish, oil, salt/sugar, soy sauce, ginger, scallion, water), takes about 10-15 minutes to throw together, yet it yields a complex, delicious, satisfying main that the average person would most definitely enjoy. It traditionally uses a whole fish, but when you don’t have access to whole fish or are just being lazy, fish fillets work perfectly (and you don’t have to worry about bones!). Ginger and scallion together are a beautiful marriage, and with fish (or really, any seafood, since ginger-scallion crab is likely my FAVORITE crab preparation), it’s like a gift to the mouth.

A friend of mine messaged me and said that she loved this dish so much that she used to have her helper in Hong Kong make it often. I literally wrote out the full recipe and instructions in my Instagram reel and told her that yes, it actually IS this simple! She can make it anytime with limited time and effort!

Fordham Heights

Today, we did our weekly stroll into a new neighborhood, and this week, Chris decided on Fordham Heights in The Bronx. While we went to a number of spots and ate a variety of different cuisines (Ghanian, Dominican, Puerto Rican, Italian), probably the most delicious and notable for me was visiting 188 Cuchifritos, which apparently has been around since at least the 1980s and has at least two or three locations in upper Manhattan. It has an endless variety of Puerto Rican and Dominican foods and snacks, and one of the two we chose there was the pork tamale (much fattier and juicer than the Mexican tamales I am used to!), plus the alcapurrias, which is a fried snack that has a mashed yucca/green plantain shell that is deep fried, stuffed with a curried, slightly spicy minced beef and onion filling. It was love at first bite; I just loved every single aspect of this delicious pointed, fried snack. I even suggested to Chris that we get four more of them to bring home because of how delicious they were, but he lightly reminded me that we were not even near the end of our self-guided food walking tour.

Alcapurrias – this is my new Puerto Rican obsession.