Four year anniversary

Four years ago today, Chris and I vowed to spend our lives together in front of our closest family and friends at a museum atop a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The weather was perfect and warm, and the ocean was crystal clear. Four years later, we are on lockdown with no foreseeable end, helplessly watching a virus that is permeating and slowly infecting and killing our fellow humans, stuck in our one-bedroom apartment, taking turns between the living/dining area and the bedroom with our customer and internal work calls and meetings. We’re leaving the apartment only for runs and walks in the park and to buy groceries. This is as close as we are going to get to being “hip to hip” and inseparable.

You never really think that in your lifetime, when you vow “forever” with anyone that you would be stuck with this person for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, without seeing pretty much anyone else. That’s not really what people sign up for when they agree to marry or coexist with a partner. But that’s what is happening. I am joining calls with customers and colleagues, complaining about their spouses, their children, being confined to a small space for who knows how long. This a trying time for many in that regard. But, I do hope we emerge stronger for this and more grateful as human beings for the literal luxuries in life that we seem to take for granted: the ability to see a friend for coffee or lunch freely, the ability to go to the gym and workout with tons of space, sitting down and enjoying a meal at a restaurant. We are not free to do any of those things right now. These luxuries are not part of our current reality. Who knows when we will get them back?

Life events postponed

The governor of Hawaii is requiring a 14-day mandatory quarantine for anyone from mainland U.S. who comes to their island state. I knew the news would be bad for my friends who were planning a wedding the first week of May, but it was so sad to get their official message stating that their wedding would be postponed until next year due to the Coronavirus. As someone who has gone through the major efforts of planning a wedding, I realize how heartbreaking and painful all of this could be. This was truly out of everyone’s control, and nothing could have been helped in this situation.

This lockdown is affecting so many people in other ways: weddings, funerals where no one can attend, family reunions, births where the partner cannot be there in the delivery room. And on an even more depressing note, it’s scary to think of all the children and spouses who live in abusive environments whose lives are even more endangered with these lockdowns. What about those who live alone and suffer from depression? This will be particularly trying for them. It’s sad to see the effect this is having on literally everyone.

Recipe backlog

As someone who spends most of her day about food – what to make and what to eat, I have had to keep things interesting in the kitchen to avoid becoming bored or depressed with our lockdown. I finally went through the dozens and dozens of recipe links that I had bookmarked over the years and pulled out ones that I had been procrastinating on but had always piqued my interest. Today’s was “Hua Juan” or Chinese scallion “flower twist” steamed buns. I’d always loved eating these from Chinese bakeries growing up, and I didn’t even realize how simple they were to make until I found an article about them on Food52 years ago. I took out my remaining three packets of dry-active yeast. I tested the first packet, and the yeast was unfortunately dead. The second packet was thankfully still alive, so I used that to make these delicious and simple bao as part of our dinner tonight. The dough is pillowy and soft. It felt like a little dream in my hands as I lightly kneaded it today. The glaze was simple and easy to make, and creating the “flower twist” part was so much fun. I let them rise twice, steamed them in 12 minutes, and the result was the softest, airiest, most pillowy little baos I’ve ever made.

As I photographed them this evening and ate them, I gloated in my success in making them so easily without any problems. I also regretted waiting this long to make them, but hey, at least this pandemic has spurred me into action in this bread making realm!

Queuing up to enter a grocery store

This is our new normal. We’re now going to grocery stores like Morton Williams, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s, but this time, in order to get in, we need to queue up to enter, as the stores are restricting the number of people inside at any one time. Seniors and those with disabilities have a special hour before the official opening hours to enter and shop, and then the rest of us can go in. The terrible part about the special treatment for seniors is… what if a senior is just physically unable to go to the store at all and needs someone to buy groceries and supplies for them? Well, their helper/grocery-fetcher has to wait in line with the rest of us. It’s sad but true.

We arrived at Whole Foods about 20 minutes after they opened, and we waited in a short line. People fought and got angry with each other for not maintaining the 6-feet social distance that is being recommended. Others were incredulous passing by, asking if this was “really” the line to enter Whole Foods. All of Time Warner Center is closed now given it’s all retail shops, with the exception of this grocery store.

We bought nearly $100 worth of groceries, which is far more than we’d spend in a typical week, and went home. We have a good amount of supplies and food at home, but it’s better to buy a little more than what we need to ensure we can lessen the number of trips out.

I’m wondering how long this will last. It was a bleak experience in the store today, far bleaker than any other grocery trip has ever been.

Dust accumulation

Years ago, my uncle left his house for a six-month-long training he did across the country. During that time, he was concerned with the amount of dust he thought would accumulate on all his open surfaces while he was away. After his trainings were completed, he came back to the house and braced himself, thinking about all the cleaning he’d have to do. What ended up welcoming him back was a surprise: not a speck of extra dust was in sight.

He later told me that he was wrong all along: the reason dust accumulates on surfaces is actually due to the presence of humans and animals. We are constantly shedding skin and hair cells and particles whether we realize it or not. And all that shedding results in the dust that we can’t stand.

I thought about this as I stared at my coffee table while sitting on the couch during a call today, noticing the thin layer of dust on the clear glass. I’ve had to dust that freaking coffee table off twice in the last two weeks due to obvious dust. And with us being here far more often and for longer periods of time, this dust is just going to keep appearing and reappearing, resulting in my anal self having to dust and clean more. Or, maybe it was just always that dusty and I just never took the time to really notice it….? Or, is it just a combination of all the above?

When every day feels the same

I woke up this morning, wondering what day it was… to then think, well, why does it matter, anyway… every day other than Saturday and Sunday seems to feel the same now! But at least with it being Thursday, we are one day closer to Friday and thus a day closer to not having to have my laptop open all day long for work calls and meetings.

I’m waking up later than I normally do with this quarantining. I’ve still been keeping a routine of waking up to exercise, even if it’s only on my seven-foot-long yoga mat laid out on my bedroom floor. This period has taught me further that although people always say and think they need more space, none of us really does. You can burn calories and have a high-intensity workout on a mat that is just two feet longer than your body. You can cook in a kitchen where you have only three feet of counter space. You make the most of what you have because you have no other choice.

I’m cooking more throughout the week because I have more flexibility and time. If anything, this is a good time to test out all the recipes that I thought were too finicky or labor-intensive… because why not? This is a period of social distancing, so we should be more self-reflective, meditate, and do all the things we say we “should” do but have just made too many excuses to not do because of our general feelings of self-importance and constantly wanting to “go out” and “do more.”

I can cook more, test more, read more, video edit more. I can do all these things, be productive, and keep myself and others safe. It’s an unprecedented time that we are living in now, but we have to make the most of it… even if every day feels nearly the same.

Photo Tech sandy counters

Luckily for me, Photo Tech was open today. They were able to remove my lens filter for a small fee. One funny thing that I noticed when I entered the repair shop: they had a big sign on the counter, stating that no one should put any wet, sandy, or dirty items on the counter.

“Does that really need to be said?” I said to the person helping me, half laughing. “It seems kind of rude to do something like that.”

“You’d be surprised,” he said, smiling. “People feel like they can just unload everything on us, all their dirt, sand, and all. You’d be surprised: the majority of camera accidents seem to happen at the beach, so the beach ends up coming to us whether we like it or not.”

It’s always comforting to hear how considerate others are, especially when they are in need of help and repair.

Broken UV filter

While attempting to record myself making a dried chili harissa paste last night, I had a bit of an accident when I turned off my camera, resulting in my tripod becoming unstable, and the camera falling down on the counter. When I went to turn it upright, I immediately panicked and thought I had cracked my actual lens. The glass on the outside had two cracks all the way across the circle. It took a while for me to calm down, but Chris mentioned if I could remove the UV filter on the lens… which suddenly made me remember that what I originally perceived to be cracked glass was actually the $6 UV lens filter and NOT the actual lens. It’s funny when the UV filter stays on your lens full time, and then you forget that these two things are actually separate.

We tried everything we could to get the lens filter off, from putting it in the freezer and turning it with a rubber band to tapping the sides of it for 10 minutes straight. Nothing worked. After having it inspected at B&H Photo today, they told me that the angle at which the lens fell resulted it the filter threads getting pushed in further, so the only way to get this removed would be to break the glass and have someone with the proper tools remove it at Photo Tech.

So the good news is that I did not ruin my lens and just broke a $6 lens filter. The bad news is that I’m not sure if Photo Tech will be open tomorrow given all the COVID-19 madness… and, we just received a message that B&H Photo would be closing for the remainder of the month in light of Coronavirus.

I need to be able to film cooking videos during this period to stay sane, otherwise I will feel like this period is a total waste indoors.

When theater stops, too

All Broadway theater has been suspended. The show we were supposed to see at the Lincoln Center last night stopped two nights early on Wednesday night in light of the Coronavirus outbreak. A life without theater, nightlife, and social activity keeps New York City so special – it’s like New York City is no longer New York City anymore.

“This is what it’s like when New York City becomes like a suburb,” Chris commented while walking quieter than usual streets this late afternoon.

Yep, that’s Chris’s worst fear: living in a suburb. 😀

Somehow, as far as I could see, people were still going out to restaurants and bars tonight. But that number is likely to drop and drop, until the city eventually bans us from even leaving our homes to flatten the curve.

Empty shelves

Coronavirus is officially a pandemic. The U.S. has officially declared a national emergency. And this morning, all the shelves at Whole Foods, Costco, and Trader Joe’s around the city were wiped clean. In my work Slack, on text, and in Facebook and Instagram, endless people were posting photos of all the empty grocery store shelves in their local neighborhoods. Toilet paper was nowhere to be found. Packaged instant ramen, clearly a hot commodity in times of crisis like this, are sold out everywhere.

We walked into Whole Foods in Columbus Circle today just to see what it looked like. Almost all the beef and poultry were gone. Dried pastas, rice, oats, and cereal were about 90 percent wiped clean. Yet… we still saw plenty of dairy (not much oat milk left, though!), yogurt, and the usual full supply of fruits and vegetables. The frozen fruit and vegetables were gone, though. And the eggs…… completely sold out. Those shelves have been replaced with more juice.

What, people don’t want juice in times of disease?