Wellness Day and back in Chinatown

“You always go to Chinatown on your days off,” Chris remarked teasingly when he found out that i went down to Manhattan Chinatown today. While it is not always accurate that I go down to Manhattan Chinatown, it is usually pretty accurate that I go to some Asian area of the city. My general thought around that is… on my day off, I want to get food, and I also want to support local businesses. And thus, Asian food and groceries are not only delicious but a great value, and in addition, I want to support Asian businesses because of the awful impact this pandemic has had on them.

I went to some of my usual standbys, like Fong On for soy milk and grass jelly, and Manna House for some different baos. I also went to a few new spots, such as Tonii’s Fresh Rice Noodle Rolls, Hay Hay Roasted, and Golden Steamer. Unfortunately, I arrived at Golden Steamer too late, and they ran out of their signature pumpkin baos, but they still had their “big bao” or “da bao,” which is stuffed with a pork filling, egg, plus Chinese sausage.

Chinatown always feels like home to me, even when I am discovering new businesses and new foods. And well, of course the food never disappoints.

Steamed broccoli is foul

I had two pounds of broccoli that my friend had left for us in our fridge, and while my standard method of cooking broccoli is to roast it in the oven, I was too lazy to empty out all the contents of the oven (I’m Asian, which means the oven is prime storage space!!), so I decided to just do the easier thing and steam them over the stove, then toss them in the Sambal Lady’s lime leaf sambal. Unfortunately, halfway through the steaming process, Chris noted that something smelled off, and I realized he was referring to the broccoli. When you are the one cooking something, sometimes the smells do not affect you in the same way as it does someone who’s not in the kitchen, so I thought nothing of what he said. That is — until I went to take out the trash and came back, and I entered the apartment again. OMG, I thought. That smell is atrocious! It smells like a mix of bad, rotten vegetables and maybe sulfur mixed in. No wonder so many kids hate broccoli, I finally empathized. If I was served broccoli that smelled like THIS, there’s no way I would have enjoyed broccoli growing up!

Well, I am never making that mistake ever again. I am never steaming broccoli ever, ever again. Broccoli needs to be roasted, baked, stir-fried, or even eaten raw in a slaw-form. Steaming broccoli is just pure nastiness.

Food crawling through Queens

Although I’ve been to the subway stop at Jamaica so many times in Queens to get to JFK airport, the only time I’ve actually gotten out of the train at that stop and walked around was the one time I had jury duty in 2010. Other than that, I’d never explored the area. What I do know is that the area has a lot of good Jamaican food. What I didn’t know, which is what Chris found, is that there’s a hidden northern Chinese gem there: Beijing Dumpling House. They make Beiing style noodles and dumplings, and if you pay $1 extra, they will top your dumplings with chili oil, lots of minced garlic, and cilantro. We got the pork and chive dumplings, and they were incredible! Something about the texture was just different than most of the other dumplings we’ve had here. I kind of want to go back just to pick up a bag or two of their frozen dumplings.

We also explored the South Richmond Hill area of Queens, which is walking distance from Jamaica. It’s an area known as “Little Guyana,” which is crazy because I had no idea this existed in New York City and can pretty much bet no one else here, except those who live in the area, are aware of this. We had some jerk chicken fried rice and a delicious piece of cassava pone (a delicious, chewy, lightly sweetened cake).

The pandemic has forced us to find and rediscover New York. I can’t get over the diversity of this city and how it never ceases to amaze me.

Snack heaven

Since my friend has been staying with us, not only has she been buying groceries for the apartment, but she’s also been introducing us to all kinds of of new snacks at Trader Joe’s. Although I do shop at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s regularly, I rarely, if ever, walk down the snack aisles at either store. Before living with Chris, I rarely snacked outside of eating fruit or vegetables and the occasional rice krispy or handful of nuts at work. But with Chris, we have endless Aussie treats, from Arnott’s biscuits like Tim Tams and Scotch Fingers to All Naturals Fruit Confectionary fruit snacks. Since my friend left earlier this week, she left these goodies that are addictive. I hate her for introducing these to us, but love her for how sweet she is. These things are too good and will likely go into junk food rotation in this apartment:

Dill pickle kettle chips: perfect kettle crunch and texture, and they taste exactly as you think they would given their name!

iMango iMango fruit and yogurt gummy candies: they have real mango juice in them and are unbelievably good. They really do taste like real fruit!

Kung pao chicken mochi balls: really good chewy texture on the outside, and the filling is savory and not too salty like most frozen foods.

Portuguese egg tarts (imported from Trader Joe’s): Haven’t opened these yet and popped them in the oven, but they look and sound very promising!

Matcha green tea ice cream: My friend said this iteration is a new formula and is really good. It’s not the best matcha ice cream, but it’s a close second!

The friend leaves the nest

Tonight is our last night with my friend staying with us, as she’s officially moving into her new place tomorrow. Today marks exactly four weeks since she started staying with us in an effort to separate from her partner, and while it’s definitely been a bit more crowded and dusty with three adults in this 1-bedroom apartment, it’s been really enjoyable. I have loved having her here with us, not only for extra company and socializing, but also for emotional support for me going through this crazy emotional embryo transfer process. Chris remarked that she arrived as a wreck and a shell of herself, but she’s left rejuvenated and fresh. She’s been adaptable in our routines, from watching food on TV while eating food, our “morning dinners” and “evening dinners” as Chris calls them, our random assortment of food on a plate ranging from Indian to Chinese to Thai and Yemeni and pesto pasta, and even our endless marital banter. It’s been comforting to have her hugs and embraces when I’ve felt anxious and uncertain. And I’ve also enjoyed being there for her to ensure she feels supported through this current life transition she’s going through. We’ve been friends now for over 24 years, and though I’ve always known she’s an amazing, warm, loving, affectionate person, I’ve never felt it as much or as immediately as I have than over the last four weeks.

In preparation for her departure, not only did she stock our fridge and pantry with all kinds of fresh food, produce, and snacks, but she even added pregnancy-symptom aiding items like ginger shots, fresh ginger, tamarind, and zinc. Sometimes, I’m in awe of how thoughtful she is. It really goes beyond me.

Well, she’s leaving the nest tomorrow. I will miss seeing her and getting her daily hugs, but it’s time for her to do her own thing. And it’s also time for me to survive without her here every day. I think I can handle it. One deep breath at a time.

City Island and the Bronx day trip

Today, we went out to City Island, which is an island that is technically part of the Bronx. It’s actually a pretty strange experience to be in a small, idyllic “island” that has endless seafood offerings when you are still actually in New York City because it’s not something anyone would expect. As soon as we drove onto the island, endless seafood restaurants abounded. Some screamed signs for crab and fish, others for lobster and shrimp, and many for all the above. We went to a spot called Crab Shanty that’s supposed to offer really great deals on seafood. And they certainly delivered on this reputation: with our lunch specials of a whole lobster plus two small soft-shelled Maryland crabs, we had salad, soup (clam chowder!), fries, cake (carrot and chocolate – two types!), and tea and coffee. We left with our bellies stuffed with seafood and more.

Afterwards, we drove to the Bronx and took a long walk along Orchard Beach, which is considered the “Riviera of the Bronx.” The beach sits on the Long Island Sound and on a clear day, you can see City Island from here. This really did not feel like the Bronx or New York City at all. It felt more like we were quite far from New York City.

We ended the day in Little Yemen in The Bronx and picked up some spinach and meat bureks from a small Yemenese spot there. It was a delicious day trip.

Beta day

Last night, I went on a rant to Chris and my friend.

“My body is supposed to be a baby making machine!” I yelled. “The female body was designed to be a baby making machine! Why do you think you get a period every month? Every single month, the female body releases an egg from one of its ovaries, and the egg is just flying out there, asking, ‘heyyyyy, sperm, where you at? Are you even there? Come save me! Be with me! Fertilize me!'”

The released egg is like a damsel in distress running or floating every single month out of one of your ovaries, wondering where the heck its prince charming is to come fertilize and save it. And then, when she is disappointed to find out that no prince charming/sperm is waiting for her, she then dissolves into nothing. (And if we had to get really scientific and specific about this, sometimes there ARE sperm / prince charmings waiting for it, but unfortunately they are too ugly (poor morphology) or too slow (poor motility) to even get considered by the egg or to penetrate the egg for fertilization). Your uterine lining is disappointed at this, with no embryo to attach to it, and thus it sheds each month, resulting in your monthly period, or a “visit from aunt flow.” That can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on what stage of life you are currently on.

I woke up this morning with a noticeable stiffness in my left wrist. I had to shake it out and stretch it a few times before it went away. While I do have cubital tunnel syndrome related problems, that affects the elbows and my fingers. I’ve never had any wrist problems. But I took that as a sign that perhaps, yes, I actually am pregnant (carpal-tunnel can be a temporary symptom of pregnancy. Isn’t that insane??). And I was going to find out shortly when I went in for my beta-HCG test. That’s why today is called Beta Day for women hoping to get pregnant.

My friend accompanied me to my 8:30am appointment to get my blood drawn. The earlier you go, the less you have to wait, so I was in and out of there in less than five minutes literally, which wasn’t enough time for my friend to get through her first news article of the day. We then went to have lunch at a popular spot along Central Park South and discussed life and a potential pregnancy over eggs, bacon, and popovers.

Just before noon, the nurse from the clinic called. I immediately jumped up to take the call into my bedroom. With my friend holding her ear close to the closed bedroom door, the nurse said, “So, I am calling with good news. You’re pregnant!”

I was in shock. I’ve been waiting for this moment for nearly two years now. My eyes immediately welled up and I blurted out, “OHMIGOD, ARE YOU FOR REAL?” She congratulated me and explained some of the levels that we’re looking for and will need to monitor, explained next steps and other things I need to watch out for, and said she’d send over instructions to me through the portal.

My friend embraced me and we cried together, still in shock at the good news, both terrified and excited at the same time. Chris came in and I told him. And him being him, he was even keeled and “smiled on the inside,” trying to temper my excitement since we had no idea if all of this would be taken away from us tomorrow.

I’m not throwing an implantation or embryo party. I’m not calling everyone I know and their mother to let them know I am pregnant. But this has been a long, miserable journey with very few highs. And with this one high after a long time of frustrations and disappointing news and periods, I finally feel like there actually may be hope for us finally growing our family now. I just need to take it one day at a time.

Twinges and dull soreness

Since yesterday evening, I started feeling a dull kind of soreness around my lower back and hips. I’ve eased up my exercise routine quite a bit since the transfer. The clinic suggested I forgo any rigorous exercise up until the day of my beta-HCG test. Since that day, I’ve mostly stuck with brisk walking on “hills” on the treadmill, elliptical for cardio, light yoga (no twisting or anything that could cause me to fall, they said), plus arm and leg exercises. So I knew that any soreness was not due to working out.

I experienced twinges last Monday, the day of the transfer, and a little of it the day after. The soreness I am experiencing now is often thought to be one of many pregnancy symptoms. But I don’t even know whether I should trust my body and any symptoms I believe I may or may not be experiencing. It could all just be psychosomatic. Maybe if I want to “feel” pregnant, my body will just make up the symptoms and tell my head to believe them. I’m at a point now where I can no longer trust my body to do anything on its own in the realm of reproductivity and just have to go by the actual facts… which leads to the HCG test tomorrow.

Who would have ever thought that nine days could go by so freaking slowly. It’s truly the worst wait.

Not so peaceful dreams return

Maybe my streak of boring dreams is over. Over the weekend, I dreamt that my cousin texted me to let me know his dad, my uncle, passed away suddenly from a case of severe food poisoning. They said they had already had his funeral, and he took a picture of a copy of the eulogy he did. That was so weird, I thought, because as of this year, it’s already been 21 years since my uncle had passed away. Then, I had a dream a colleague of mine was giving me some nasty feedback about customer work I’ve done, while saying he hoped that feedback from customers about me would improve over time. Lastly, I had a dream I was in my wedding dress in my dad’s car. He was driving me to San Clemente, and as we approached Casa Romantica, our wedding venue, there were these huge, massive waterfalls. It was a very confusing experience.

Whenever dreams like this happen, I wonder if it’s just my underlying anxiety, or if there are some other deeper meanings to these dreams. I never have any idea.

Taking care

“I was telling my guys at work that it feels sooooo nice to have someone else cook for me,” my friend gushed while we took a walk outside this afternoon. “It’s nice to feel taken care of for once. It’s also nice to not have to think about what I have in the fridge or what I need to cook to get a meal on the table.”

She has been buying a lot of our raw ingredients for my cooking, and a couple days ago she brought back Persian cucumbers, so I asked if she was planning to use them for something. She said no, so I made a quick Sichuanese-style spicy garlicky cucumber salad — my go-to dish when I have a lot of cucumbers but I don’t really have any creativity to think about something new to do with them. We had them as a side for dinner this evening, and she totally obsessed over them. “What’s in the cucumber salad?” she asked. This is my first hint that she really likes something. Then, she said, “I’m ALL about this salad. I’m definitely having another serving.” She finished her plate, got another serving of the cucumber salad, and inhaled it all. I’ve never seen anyone get so excited about cucumber salad, ever.

I love the feeling of taking care of other people. That’s why I hope this transfer works out so I can have a little one to watch grow and nurture and feed endless delicious things. Hopefully, it will have a good appetite and love a variety of foods.