28 Days Later

It has been 28 days since I last stepped foot outside my apartment building.
The above fact seems both bewildering and (now) unremarkable at the same time, somehow.

I’ll admit that I was later than I should have been in taking the coronavirus threat seriously. I had just come back from a bachelorette party on a cruise ship (!!) and a day trip to Universal Studios in Orlando (!!!) and went to the office on Monday, March 9 with every intention of finishing the week in the office.

My husband, on the other hand, took the virus more seriously than I did. I think perhaps I took it less seriously because of how concerned his parents were about it back over the Lunar New Year. At that time, I was primarily worried about my family in China, which was experiencing their peak of the outbreak and during which time was suffering through the biggest holiday of the year. My mother called me one day from the airport, which was unsettlingly quiet. Everyone was scared to speak to one another, wearing masks, avoiding other people.
But in the United States, at the end of January, we had 4 confirmed cases with zero on the entire East Coast of North America. So, when my in-laws suggested that we not even visit them for the new year and offered to mail us surgical masks instead, I was really dismissive.

Fast forward to Sunday, March 8. I am buying groceries because I’ve decided I am going to start a Whole30 post-traveling. (HAHA) My husband urges me to abandon the low-carb diet and stock up on staples we’ll need for quarantine. I compromise and bring back a lot of produce and freezer items.  By Monday, husband has convinced me that we should pack up our things and prepare to work from home indefinitely. I tell him I’ll probably try to pop back into the office once a week or so, and tell my co-workers that I’m likely to go back to work that Friday for our department briefing. We have already received the go-ahead for everyone in the department to work from home if they are uncomfortable coming into the office. Some of my teammates gladly take up this offer because they have long commutes.

The mood shifts in the afternoon for me. The week prior, after I returned from my trip, we had been hearing rumors about someone getting tested for coronavirus in an office building that was operated by the same property management company that ran our own. By the afternoon of March 9, there seemed to be a confirmed case in every office building near us, and the head of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Rick Cotton, was also confirmed positive. That was the news tidbit that pushed me to start packing my desk. After all, this was the man who had been visiting major transit facilities to oversee their coronavirus procedures: all of the airports, major train and bus hubs, etc.

We leave the office early that day to avoid the crowds on the subway during peak commuting hours. The train is emptier at 4pm, but it’s tense. A handful of people are wearing masks. I feel acutely aware of people staring at us, two Asian people, while a homeless man lying across a seat at the end of the car coughs in his sleep. Read More »

Thoughts on the Upcoming “Mulan”

The Mulan live-action adaptation release date has been pushed back to July 24, after being delayed indefinitely and after the red carpet premiere took place earlier last month, before Hollywood was shut down.

Amazon.com: Mulan 2020 Poster 27x40 Original D/S Movie Poster ...

Will I watch it? Absolutely.
Am I excited to watch it? No. I’m really really skeptical of how much I will like this movie, even though I do really want to like it. Watching the first trailer planted many doubts in my mind that I’ve ranted about enough to friends that I figured it was worth it to write it all down to save everyone some time the next time I need to get this off my chest.

Read More »

Quarantine Video Playlist (Calm Foods)

I don’t know about you all, but I’m really struggling to make lemonade from the proverbial global pandemic crisis lemons I have been allotted during this time. I just don’t currently have it in me to do a bunch of home workouts (as someone who has more success with the external accountability of a class), to bake all day? (I don’t even have… the ingredients…?), or even to binge-watch shows. I’ve had an aversion to the commitment of starting a new show for a long time, and that has only been exacerbated by the toll of living during a worldwide catastrophe.

What I do have an appetite for, however, is videos. Specifically, I watch a lot of food preparation videos (which has always been a guilty pleasure of mine), and lately, I’ve been really enjoying calm and relaxing food preparation videos.

I tend to watch videos at 1.5x speed or faster, but with these, I am able to sit back and watch at the intended speed (haha) to really attempt relaxation. It’s almost meditative, to watch someone prepare something delicious.

So here are a few of the videos that have brought me a few minutes of peace and calm. I hope they can do the same for you.

I have really gotten into watching Li Ziqi 李子柒 because she is connecting viewers with the traditional ways to make Chinese foods. I can be completely enraptured watching her harvest soybeans to make soy milk to make tofu in order to make mapo tofu 麻婆豆腐. Or even planting rice to make rice cakes and scorched rice. I spend a lot of time unwinding and craving Chinese food watching, so it’s no wonder that she is perhaps one of the most influential online creators in China, with a rumored reach wider than even CCTV.

Haegreendal 해그린달 is a Korean woman who is part of a wave of content creators that make these supremely cozy videos that really add the homey to home. She cooks simple dishes, does household chores, with little bits of commentary that give you a bit of insight into her thoughts and sometimes ask you to take time to discover insight into your own. I discovered her videos very recently but know they will be something I come back to when I need to quiet my mind and feel motivated to take care of my living space and myself.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention Alvin Zhou, from BuzzFeed’s Tasty team, as this video actually introduced me to Haegreendal. She is one of the people he cited as inspiration for the above video, which is one of the quarantine videos that was released recently. It’s a very simple concept – he makes a series of 3-ingredient recipes all day – that is really pleasantly executed. I felt super at ease watching, and because all the recipes are just 3 ingredients, I felt like I could easily get up and make one or all of them myself if I so chose. I hope he enjoyed making this one as much as I did watching.

This insanely gorgeous cheesecake recipe from HidaMari Cooking appeared in my suggested videos so many times that I finally relented, being a huge fan of peaches and a disliker of cheesecake. This Japanese creator’s channel is full of these absolutely beautiful creations, all with the goal of being pleasing to the eyes and ears. I would consider this part of the wave of mostly Japanese creators who were creating this ASMR cooking content last year.

Another prime example in this genre is Peaceful Cuisine, who makes soothing food videos with and without music. (There are 2 versions for many of the recipes he makes.) This is his most popular one, and he’s been creating little moments of peace and tasty treats for years now.

If you haven’t seen yet, Dalgona coffee has been a beverage trend in South Korea for over a month now as Koreans in quarantine learn to make something delicious and beautiful in the confines of their home. This video, from Cho’s Daily Cook, is part of a trending genre in Korea called #homecafe, where people create sumptuous-looking beverages in aesthetic as all heck videos. (Eater did a great write-up about this trend.) This was one of my favorite videos from early on before Dami Lee blew up the trend’s spot in the United States and it started going viral on TikTok and Instagram here, too.

I hope you enjoy these videos and that they help you find a bit more calm in your day. Relax your jaw, take some deep breaths, release the tension in your shoulders. There are cozy food videos waiting for you.

If you have any relaxing food videos to share, please do! I’m always looking for more to enjoy.


Today would have been my grandpa’s 86th birthday.

He passed peacefully 14 days ago. Because of the current circumstances with the coronavirus, there will be no funeral.

I had started to feel a bit numb after a few weeks of self-quarantine, but his passing brought on a surge of emotions, primarily grief and guilt.

May you be resting in peace, with Grandma.
祝爷爷一路走好, 天堂不再有痛苦.


National Poetry Month

April is, among other things, National Poetry Month, a time to recognize and celebrate poetry.

From poets.org: The official April 2020 National Poetry Month poster features the artwork of Samantha Aikman, winner of this year’s National Poetry Month Poster Contest for Students. Aikman’s design was selected by judges Alison Bechdel, renowned cartoonist, and former U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera. It features the following line from the poem “Remember” by current U.S. Poet Laureate, Joy Harjo: “Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you.”

I have always wanted to be a lover of poetry, but I’ve begun to acknowledge that I might not like poetry even if it is “good” (as with any art or medium), or that poetry can be good simply because I (and I alone) like it. That a single line of a poem is my main takeaway. That what I love most about a poem is its rhythm.

As longtime followers of my blog might know, I dabbled in the indulgently “emo” and self-proclaimed “deep” practice of writing poetry as a middle-schooler. It was embarrassing stuff but, even then, revealed my love for meter and and words that paint a specific image in the mind. I recall trying to write a free verse poem that more or less ended as a limerick, so dearly did I cling to rhyme and meter.

For many people, critical reading of poetry in a high school English class really turned them off of poetry, if not most leisure reading. I was fortunate enough to have connected enough with my English teachers and their teaching that reading poetry through this lens really enhanced my enjoyment of poetry. I’ll never forget reading Sylvia Plath, the poet that “emo” girls love to morbidly think on, and learning about the precise kind of emotion and imagery she was evoking in “Sheep in Fog”:

The hills step off into whiteness.
People or stars
Regard me sadly, I disappoint them.

The train leaves a line of breath.
O slow
Horse the color of rust,

Hooves, dolorous bells–
All morning the
Morning has been blackening,

A flower left out.
My bones hold a stillness, the far
Fields melt my heart.

They threaten
To let me through to a heaven
Starless and fatherless, a dark water.

To close, as quarantine stretches out before us, I’d like to share a poem by Adam Zagajewski, translated from Polish by Claire Cavanagh, that a friend on Instagram shared yesterday.

“Try to Praise the Mutilated World”

Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June’s long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of rosé wine.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others
You’ve seen the refugees going nowhere,
you’ve heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth’s scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the gray feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
and returns.

I hope that in this unprecedented time, you are able to find a poem that brings you comfort. Songs absolutely count as poetry (who among us has not posted a beautiful song lyric somewhere), but I challenge you to take the time to read the lyrics without listening to the song and even speak them aloud without music. Let the words themselves bring you comfort. We all deserve a song like that.