Still exploring our backyard

Now that some of our domestic travels have ended and our move is now complete, we went out for yet another Saturday to explore the other side of Mott Haven, the Bronx, that we didn’t visit last autumn when we went. Even before the pandemic was here, I think I did a decent job of going to neighborhoods where I didn’t live. It also helped that I lived in a lesser known and unpopular area like Elmhurst, Queens. I knew I had seen more of New York than the average life-long New Yorker, and far, far more than the temporary New York person who stays here for a year or so and leaves for another city. But the pandemic has really given us more time to further explore and appreciate our own backyard. You could actually spend an entire year or so exploring all the neighborhoods of New York and NEVER get through even half of all the businesses. That’s the range and diversity that New York has that most cities lack.

Just today, we visited a Dominican bakery for a fried potato and pork treat, a couple of different Latin bakeries, a well appointed and stylish Australian owned restaurant bar, a trendy sushi spot, a brick oven pizzeria, a super light (!) and delicious local burger spot with a secret “milk” sauce (they even had a delicious virgin pina colada — so refreshing and really hit the spot on a hot day!), and a local Bronx microbrewery. This was all within walking distance from each other up in Mott Haven. The diversity of New York is just subway stops away no matter where you are here, if not just a few blocks away.

When Chinatown shuts down early due to racist attacks

As the global pandemic of COVID-19 continues with a delta variant that is quickly sweeping across the globe, attacks against Asian Americans has unfortunately continued. Many elderly Asians have been attacked, beaten, robbed, stabbed. Asian restaurant workers have been attacked going home after dark. It’s been an unfortunate time for Asians in America, and it’s instilled a lot of fear in Asian business owners, who not only want to continue running their businesses obviously, but also care about the well-being and safety of their workers. And for that reason, many across Manhattan Chinatown, as with some other Chinatowns across the country, have decided to shorten their hours to allow their workers to get home safely during daylight hours. Most businesses that typically closed in the middle or late evening are now shutting down for the day by 5 to 7pm. Others that used to stay open until 7 or 8 are now closing their doors by 4 or 5pm. It’s been really sad to see this. Even Hong Kong Supermarket is now closing at around 6pm here, and it’s a major grocery store in Chinatown. When we were planning to go have Thai food in Chinatown this evening as our usual tradition around the anniversary of Ed’s passing to have a meal he would have enjoyed, I checked to see if Chun Yang Tea would still be open by the time we finished dinner. I’d been wanting to visit here for a long time since they opened, as they are the spin off of the very original bubble tea house in Taichung, Taiwan. I especially was eager to go when I found out they started a partnership with a local, Asian owned ice cream business to make a hojicha ice cream latte. Unfortunately, they have shortened their hours, as well, as they close every day by 7pm now.

It’s been depressing to see the racist acts in the news, the rate of Asian hate crimes increase during the pandemic. And it’s also been sad to see Asian businesses close early out of fear. I hope this doesn’t continue forever. Chinatown will only lose business if this all keeps up. We need to keep Chinatown alive.

Sharing about the pregnancy

Given the ongoing pandemic situation, even with cities and businesses reopening, it’s been really easy to not share about my pregnancy. I work from home and will do so as long as I work at the company I’m at, so I have no colleagues to “hide” from. Even if you saw me, if I wore loose clothing, you’d never guess I was pregnant.

So when I was having a friendly chat with one of our doormen last week, he asked “how the family” was doing. I told him everything was good. Then he awkwardly looked around and looked at me and said, “okay, okay… If you’re not gonna say nothin,’ then I’m not gonna say nothin’.” I guess that was the queue for me to share my news, so I told him.

“Oh, THANK GOD!” he exclaimed, sighing loudly. “I thought you were, but you never know… CONGRATULATIONS!”

Yep, I’m not getting fat. I’m pregnant. 🙂

Drugstore beetle infestation

About a week before our move, in the last apartment I started noticing these tiny little bugs around the kitchen and kitchen window. They were no bigger than a sesame seed and were reddish-brown in color. And worse: they had WINGS. Eventually, I started seeing them flying in the bedroom and bathroom. I had no idea what was causing them. At first, I wondered if it was because of fruit I purchased that I left on the counter. After this, I started spraying all fruit on the counter with boiling water before leaving them there (everything else goes in the fridge, but alas, you are supposed to let mangoes, kiwis, and stone fruit ripen at room temperature). Then, I inspected my spider plant a few times to ensure that it was not the root cause and found nothing. I just couldn’t figure out the cause. Then finally, yesterday, while moving a plastic storage bin with pantry item foods, I discovered at least 10 of them in the bin! Something in the bin was causing this nonsense!

Through process of elimination, I separated out all canned and bagged items. I inspected the plastic bagged items for holes. And finally, I found the culprit: it was my dried Mexican chilies that I’d purchased at a market in Corona, Queens, last year. The beetles were crawling around, gnawing their way at the chilies; it was just awful. I immediately wrapped up the chili bag and tossed it down the shoot. Then, I sealed the plastic bin to contain any beetles and hopefully suffocate them.

I read about these drugstore beetles online, as I’d never heard of them before or noticed them. They are specifically drawn to spices, particularly CHILIES and PEPPERS, and they are like cockroaches in that they just keep multiplying and are super resilient. They can go days and days without food or water and still survive. It’s just hideous. I’m confused, though, because I’d had these chilies for so long, and they’d never had any bugs before until now. I have no idea where these disgusting critters originated from to begin with…?!

Some of them unfortunately got out in the new apartment. In the last couple of days, I’ve had to kill at least 5-6 every day. Today is the first day when I haven’t seen any. Fingers crossed I killed them all. Bug infestations are truly the worst. Now, I’m trying to remove almost everything like rice, flour, etc., out of their original packaging and into sealed glass or plastic jars/bins. I also threw my other chilies and peppers into the freezer (plus all my rice flours because I’m paranoid now) temporarily to kill any potential bugs. I cannot have this happen again.

When you discover mold plants in your new apartment

Regardless of where you move and what kind of building you move into, whether it’s single family home you rent or buy, an apartment in a dingy walk-up or in a luxury high-rise, inevitably you will discover some problem with it. Some will be small and easily fixable, others may require more time, money, and effort, while others will just be… flat out disgusting.

We did an apartment inspection with the building super on Wednesday and called out a few things that needed fixing or touching up that they missed. But one area that I didn’t check (that I also did not think I even NEEDED to check) was the garbage disposal and drain in the kitchen sink. And well, clearly, they missed this, too.

When I went to clean the sink yesterday, I pulled out the plug and noticed… not only a very off, sewage, moldy smell, but also… MOLD PLANTS growing on the kitchen plug. There were three of them growing and sprouting leaves. It was the most hideous thing I’d ever uncovered in a new apartment. I was particularly appalled because we’ve been living in this building for four years now, and I’d never heard or seen anything so gross. Plus, this is supposed to be a luxury building in New York City. All I could think was, WTF?! I wiped them off and sanitized them. One of the porters came up and did some additional drain cleaning for us, but it still wasn’t enough to get rid of the smell. I’ve had to apply a baking soda and vinegar solution to let the drain soak to try to get the smell out. While it’s helped, there is still a faint moldy smell every time I take the kitchen plug out of the drain. Not happy.

Moving Day once again after 4 years

“This will be the easiest move of your life,” Chris said, as we started filling up large plastic storage bins and endless reusable cloth bags with our belongings.

We’re moving “very very far,” or, well, just a floor up in the same building into a larger 2-bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment. It will be the very first time since I was growing up that I’ll live in a place that has more than one bathroom, which is kind of crazy to me. Our apartment will have southwest exposure, which means we’ll not only have views of the Hudson River, but also views of downtown Manhattan. We hired movers just to move furniture, and we moved the rest of our belongings on our own. We didn’t have to package and tape anything, nor did we need to buy any one-time-use moving boxes, which was nice (and good for the environment). With the large storage bins, the luggage cart, and of course an elevator, plus easy access to two stairwells, although it took a lot of trips up and down, we were eventually able to move every single non-furniture item ourselves. Granted, I willl say that I emptied out the entire kitchen and the vast majority of the closets since Chris claimed he had to wait for the Verizon guy to show up (and because it was a stormy afternoon-evening, there seemed to have been a huge delay), so a considerable chunk of this “move” was me going up and down the stairs and elevators about a gazillion times to finally get most of our non-furniture belongings moved over. After about 14 hours of constantly going up and down between the two floors, emptying out storage bins and our endless supply of stuffed reusable bags, I was totally pooped. I can already feel my calves getting sore from all the excessive exercise. I should win an award for the most physical activity related to moving for a pregnant woman ever.

But now, we are in our new home, the third home we’ve shared, and the second home we’ve shared just with each other. I’m looking forward to new memories being made in this new, spacious apartment, along with the hopeful healthy arrival of our new family member.

Apartment inspection

This afternoon, we went through our new apartment unit to do an inspection for things that may need fixing or additional touch ups. It’s strange to think that this will be our new home. Not that it’s far away or different in finishes at all from our current place… it’s one floor up, just in a bigger unit. The kitchen is exactly the same; the bathrooms are designed the same. But it just seems like a lot of space for the two of us. Fingers crossed that all goes well and it won’t just be the two of us for that much longer, but still feels strange to finally have an apartment where there is “free space,” as in a second bedroom for at least the next 8-9 months, will pretty much be unoccupied other than having my work space in it. Ideally, I would like the baby to stay in our room for at least the first 6-8 months, so it’s not technically planned as “just” the baby room for now.

The views of the unit are also much different. For some reason, every time I look out these windows, it feels so much farther away, even though it’s in the SAME BUILDING. It’s a different perspective for sure.

When you care about the common good

Although President Biden and the CDC have already stated that masks are not necessary if you are fully vaccinated, I am not feeling quite that confident. With the delta variant close at bay and the number of positive cases still at a considerable rate in this country, I do not feel comfortable going unmasked in indoor situations, particularly in crowded spaces. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s have gradually increased their max capacity numbers, so I can feel that it’s definitely getting more full in those stores during shopping. Given that the vaccination rate here in New York City is quite high, it’s surprising to see that the vast majority other than maybe one or two guys are wearing masks when I go grocery shopping. This is almost like peer pressure for myself to wear a mask, but I’ve already been entering the stores masked. I’m sure that the vast majority of these shoppers are vaccinated, but they’re wearing a mask just for extra protection and to help everyone else. That’s what it really should be about: making small sacrifices to help everyone else. We’re supposed to be a community.

Accumulating too much clutter and junk

When friends love and appreciate you, they shower you with gifts for every possible event possible: birthdays, Christmases, Hanukkahs, housewarmings, baby arrivals, engagements, weddings, anniversaries — you name it. Sometimes, some friends can be efficient with gift giving (asking explicitly for what you want, wish lists, etc.), some friends can be frugal (waiting until around New Year’s Day to give you your Christmas gift so she can buy it once it’s gone on sale after Christmas). I get it: it’s done out of love. I’m definitely not complaining about it and am grateful when I am gifted items because it means someone’s actually thinking about me. What this inevitably means is… the more friends you have, the chances are high the more stuff you will accumulate. Between Chris and me, we definitely do not have a high quantity of friends, yet somehow, we’ve managed to accumulate so many items that are still brand new, never opened, and never used.

Among the gifts we uncovered during our move: fancy, hand-crafted, made-in-France cheese knives, cutting boards, excess blankets, never-used bowls and plates, a single-scoop ice cream maker, cheese knife-and-board sets, a wine rack, books on random topics. In addition, I’ve also uncovered things we’ve purchased or been gifted that we really just are bored of and have no use for anymore, including popsicle molds, DVD sets, and a picnic umbrella (I am still confused as to why my husband, who is a self-proclaimed picnic hater, not only owns a very large plastic picnic blanket, but also a MASSIVE multi-colored picnic umbrella). We’re creating a pile of items to sell and wondering what we will actually get back for these.

The downside of moving into a larger space is that when you have more space… you will inevitably get more things to fill it up. When you have more closet space, you will find ways (or your family/friends will find ways) to help you fill it up. I hope we do not accumulate too much clutter in this new place and focus on buying/accepting gifts of items we will actually use.

Bottom of the freezer

When you are getting ready to move, even when it’s just to another unit in the same building, it makes you start going through all your stuff and realizing how much crap you’ve accumulated since the last time you moved. Even though this will be the easiest move of our lives given it’s in the same building, I still want to cull a lot of the things we have, especially things we do not use at all. However, even with places like the freezer, stuff accumulates that you just forget about. Here are some things I found that I totally forgot about on the bottom of the freezer: minced lemongrass and chopped lemongrass stalks; Trader Joe’s frozen chicken burritos, Trader Joe’s frozen charred corn; frozen banana and pandan leaves, two frozen barramundi fillets, one frozen chicken drumstick. Some of these items already have freezer burn. That definitely sounds delicious. This is one of the fun activities that’s a part of moving — discovering food items you’ve neglected.