happy thanksgiving & fresh green beans

Thursday was Thanksgiving. Did you have a good Thanksgiving? Did you have any Thanksgiving at all?

I went to a Friendsgiving. Yes, yes, I know. My household consists of lonely ol’ me, so yes, I did have Thanksgiving with people outside my household. But fear not, Mr. Cuomo! I see these people every week, so I guess they’re sort of like my pod? And we were being good—only six of us total, no hugging, we kept our distance, used serving utensils, etc.

Anyhow, it was potluck style and I was assigned green bean casserole due to my rudimentary cooking skills and everyone saying it was a “necessity” at Thanksgiving. But in truth, I’ve never been a fan of green bean casserole. I’m also lactose intolerant. Well anyway, I was told that green bean casserole is better with fresh beans, so that’s what I used. I had to Google how to blanch them, because I’d never actually cooked green beans before. All in all, the whole process was pretty easy. Wash green beans. Chop green beans. Blanch green beans. Mix green beans with a can of cream of mushroom, half a cup of milk, some pepper, and 2/3 cup of French’s fried onions. Bake in an 8×8 pan at 350F for 30 minutes, top with more fried onions, and bake for another 5 minutes. And done.

And you know what? Everyone said it was good. (Thank you, kind friends!) But the truth is, I still didn’t like it. It certainly was better than other green bean casseroles I’ve tried, but no amount of fresh greens and extra crispy fried onions will make it appetizing to me. It’s just too much mushiness for my taste. Sure I ate it, mixed in with the mashed potatoes and stuffing and a Lactaid pill … but it’ll never be my jam. Oh, but French’s fried onions? I have to say, those things are delicious. I’ve already eaten all the extra I had. Those beat green beans any day.

it’s been a bit

miesby.wordpress.com

It’s currently raining outside—heavily. It’s already November now and it’s amazing/unnerving how much time has passed. The weather’s turning chilly, and outside the thunderstorm is battering my windows and is causing my walls to make concerning creaking sounds. But that’s just how it goes. That’s how this year has gone so far.

I live in an apartment building in New York City. The building has stood for decades, and it’s not going to crumble due to some rain, but one can’t help but wonder if. New York City is an international city, a place of business and commerce, a symbol of progress and prosperity. But this pandemic has shown its weaknesses, has shown it falter. The streets were empty for a time, emptier than I’d ever seen—emptier in the day than I’d seen in evenings previous—but more than the lack of people presence, it was the loneliness. It was the prevailing fear in the air, the uncertainty and unease that permeated the city. That permeated my mind. This strong city. Me. The pandemic showed its cracks.

I’m not an optimistic person by nature. People who meet me usually think I’m an optimist, an extrovert … at least at first. But that’s all learned and faked, through my experiences moving to new cities and meeting new people, through getting thrown into the world of marketing and figuring out the art of selling, through networking and making small talk. It’s a very well-developed “work voice” that I’ve learned to rely on for my own sanity, but it also terrifies me how comfortable I am putting on that mask and pretending that everything is fine. I hope for the future, and I hope that all will be well, and I hope that we’ll all recover our sense of safety and stability. But a large part of myself also can’t help but chide myself for being so naive.

But then I hope that maybe part of that happy mask has found its way into becoming part of my true face. After all, if gardening has taught me anything, it’s that nature always finds a way. Change will come, whether we want it to or not, and there’s only so much agency we truly have, so there’s no use trying to exert control over things we can’t control. I don’t know what the future will hold, and honestly, I try not to think too much these days, as it only causes me more stress and turmoil—more than I can handle. I see the cracks in my well-worn façade and hope it won’t shatter, because I like that face, and I’m not ready to let it go. I comfort myself not in the hope of the better, but in the reality that life will continue, in one way or another.

lapin lapin, no lapins in my garden

Happy September! Fall is just around the corner … le sigh. Fall already?

Lately I’ve just been work work working. Sometimes it’s a little unnerving how settled I’ve become. I mean, I’m still young … shouldn’t I be having more fun, exploring and experiencing? I always joke that I’m like a grandmother with my cooking and crocheting and container gardening, but then again, there’s nothing really wrong with that. My plants are amazing. They don’t talk and they’re actually growing! For someone like me, who used to kill everything, my little urban balcony has become a magical urban jungle.

180901

I have three large cherry tomato plants that rely on a lot of dowels and the balcony railings for support. They’re named A, B, and C. Then there’s a lemon tree named Elle (I used to have two—Elle and Emme—but I gave Emme to my mother). I also have some bok coy, sweet pepper plants, crookneck squash, green onion, and basil. Oh, and there’s Ollie, my olive tree. He usually lives indoors, but is spending the summer outdoors with his friends.

Unfortunately so far the only things I’ve been able to harvest are cherry tomatoes (a lot of cherry tomatoes), green onion, and bok choy. The basil is doing well, but I actually don’t use basil my my cooking. Why I didn’t decide to plant rosemary is a question for the ages.

In summary, I’ve turned into a plant lady. But ya know what? I’m okay with it. It might be all that extra oxygen in my life from all my plants, but for now, I’m pretty content with my boring life.

possible union strike

I’ve lived in New York for over four years, so I feel like I know the city pretty well in the way that I have strong opinions on bagel shops and can rattle off subway routes and hate Times Square with a passion. But there are still quite a few signs that I’m not from the citythings that I’ve never experienced, that blow my mind and somewhat terrify me. One of those things? A union strike.

WHAT?!

Apparently my building’s staff (which amounts to less than a dozen people) have their own union. I didn’t know that. And apparently (according to a three-page letter every resident got from the management company today), that union might go on strike in a few weeks. The letter described what would happen in case of a strike: They’ll hire a security guard and we’ll all be issued security passes. Residents will volunteer to man the front desk. The trash compactor chute will be closed, so we’ll have to take trash out to the curb ourselves. And we can only receive deliveries if we’re home and able to collect it from the lobby (which basically means no one’s getting packages, unless they trek over to the distribution center).

So … um … WHAT?!

I don’t want to live in a building where the staff is on strike! That sounds totally unsafe and kind of scary, like a cross between being on lockdown (with guards out front and a single bottleneck entry point), and squatting somewhere (basic infrastructure but no services). I’d have to cross a picket line just to go home? As for what the issues are and why a strike is being threatened, I have no idea. Not a Scooby-Doo. But now I really, really want to know what’s going on.

blue apron v. being green

Wanna try Blue Apron?

I’ve turned downright domestic. Dear self, what was your Friday night like? Oh, nothing much, just cooked. And baked. And vacuumed. And did laundry. And re-potted my tomato plant. And planted green onions. And built a rocking chair. No joke.

Stop me now.

So. My sister gave me one of those free trials for Blue Apron, and I was like: Cool, I’ll sign up! No grocery shopping! No lugging heavy bags ! I can try new recipes! I’ll eat healthier! And it was pretty cool. The food is good, I learned new things, tried new things, and all was well.

I stuck with it for a bit, but now I’m planning to cancel the service. Why? Because Blue Apron is an extravagance. I’m not so busy that I can’t go to the grocery store, veggies and meat are far cheaper elsewhere, and there are a million and a half recipes on the world wide web. And Blue Apron’s excessive packaging drives me nuts. So much packaging! Oy. Of course the cardboard and all those plastic containers can be recycled, but you know what’s better than recycling? Not having it in the first place. Plus, that Nordic Ice gel stuff that does a great job keeping the meat cold? Blue Apron’s instructions for disposal are to empty the gel into the trash, which just makes me feel all cringe-y inside. It’s nice that everything is so well packaged to keep the food fresh (although many a tomato has been found squashed at the bottom of a package), but it’s truly excessive. No thank you. I’ll go to the grocery store.

Over the years I’ve become more eco-conscious, although I’m still a far cry from a tree-hugger. Living in the big city where there’s lots and lots of people and lots and lots of concrete, I value the environment so much more than when I was growing up, where space and fresh air were aplenty. Have you ever stood on a black asphalt street on a sweltering New York summer day and smelled the *lovely* in-your-face smell of hot piles of trash, oozing with rotting food? Yeah … well, enough of those days and you’ll start thinking that everyone needs to waste less, recycle more, and compost more. And why not? You can’t possibly be that busy not to.

eclipse revelation: what the heck am i doing?

On Monday, the moon covered the sun. Here in New York there was no full eclipse, no moment of complete darkness. As I was busily working away in the office, the world out the window seemed same ol’ same ol’. But a bunch of colleagues went to hang out on the street outside, so I joined them. And I put on a pair of those special glasses. And I saw the eclipse, the partial 71% that we got. And it looked like darkness and fire. And all I could think was: wow. Wow. And then I thought: What the heck am I doing? Was my careful editing of that marketing text really so important that I was almost going to miss the FREAKING ECLIPSE?

Some days, days like these days, I wonder: What the heck am I doing? I’ve always tended towards apathy, but it’s getting ridiculous. In a span of six years, I moved from Texas to Shanghai to New York back to Shanghai and back to New York again, all in the search of new challenges. And now? The standard answer is that I’m in New York because I love New York (and I do), and that it’s the best mix of homey Texas and chaotic Shanghai (and it is), but being in New York also means that I don’t have to anything outstanding, because there’s so much going on already that it’s easy to just go with the flow. New York means I can use words like ‘adulting’, wear nice clothes at my nice job, have a glass (or three) at French wine bars, blend with all the other aimless millennials, let all my ambitions and plans slowly fade away, and pretend that I’m right where I ought to be.

But what happened to all that other stuff? Have I *gasp* settled? No more. I’m going to revive this poor little blog. I’m going to take up freelance work. I’m going to get back into creating, shaping, thinking, writing, discussing, learning, and being out there. I’m going to be me again … the me I want to be. That’s what I’m going to do. So thank you moon, for blocking out the sun. It truly was amazing.

(Note: That’s not to say I’m going to give up wine and stop being occasionally superficial … I still am a millennial after all.)

new york apartment no. 8

Last week I was talking to a colleague when I mentioned I was moving over the weekend. Her response: “AGAIN?!?!”

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen! I am now on my eighth New York apartment, my fifth in the last 1.5 years. But I promise this will be the last. Pinky swear. Each place has its own special New York story attached to it, so … how about a highlight reel?

No. 1: Upper West Side
During my first year of grad school at Columbia (and my first time living in New York), I lived with three other girls in an amazing fourth-floor walk-up (oy) that had washer and dryer in-unit. I signed the initial paperwork for the apartment while traveling around China, without having met the roommates and without even having been to the neighborhood, and ended up spending about 50 RMB at the Beijing hostel for internet access and scanning. The four of us got along great, had many shenanigans, and frequented a local bar called the Ding Dong Lounge. I experienced my first earthquake in this apartment. And an overactive heater meant that my room (and only my room) would easily surpass 80 degrees, and I’d be in a tank top and shorts with the window open while snow fell outside.

No. 2: Central Harlem
In my second year at Columbia, I lived with a charming Dutch girl with a lot of food allergies for one semester and a boisterous German girl who drank a lot of red wine for the second semester. This is where I holed up during Sandy and Nemo and where the liquor store guy at the end of the block knew my favorite wine. Oh, and we were illegally subletting because it was an affordable housing building. And the glass of the building’s front door got broken in. And we once heard gunshots. And my neighbor’s recently-released-from-prison husband would pee in the stairway because she wouldn’t let him move back in. And I locked myself out once, but then my neighbor oh so helpfully “opened” my door for me.

No. 3: Astoria
This was a summer sublet where I lived with two 20-something professionals. It was my first summer in New York, and I survived it with a ceiling fan, table fan, and open windows. But really, I survived by spending a lot of time outside exploring New York, drinking too many delicious frappes, being off in China, at my internship in Chelsea (often after waiting 30+ minutes for the stupid NQ train—back when the Q went to Queens), or at Columbia (because I just couldn’t stay away).

No. 4: Flushing
After two years in Shanghai, I returned to New York with no job but high hopes, so I stayed in Flushing while job searching. And honestly? It felt like I never left China, since I was still surrounded by Chinese people, I ate a lot of Chinese food, and things were fairly cheap (in comparison to Manhattan). For the first month of working, I dealt with hour-long commutes and a lot of cockroaches.

No. 5: Herald Square
Kitty corner to Macy’s, my room was a few floors above the Gap, and this place was LOUD. There was street noise all day and all night, and tourists were everywhere. The building had a fantastic-looking lobby, but the rental floors looked like an outdated hotel with dingy lighting, long narrow hallways, and the occasional waft of pot smoke. Its saving graces were being right by the BDFMNQR trains, and having Koreatown a few blocks away.

No. 6: Tribeca
This was basically a glorified flophouse, with nine girls living in a totally illegal yet rather spacious apartment. When my Herald Square lease ended, I wasn’t able to find a more permanent situation, so I ended up at this month-to-month place, which I found two days before I was due to move out. My room was one of the only two rooms that had a window, and it was tiny—it fit a twin bed with about a foot of walkway to the side. One girl (an aspiring model/actress from Ukraine) lived in a room accessible only through the bathroom. No one ever locked the front door, the circuit breaker got tripped almost every day, and while it was fun at times (reality tv binge watches), it was also pretty gross. More “hostel” than “sorority house.”

No. 7: Hell’s Kitchen
My two roommates were other 20-something Asian girls who were very entertaining (lots of drama, but not amongst us) and it was actually kind of great. My room was a bit on the small side but got great light, and we were on a higher floor so I would often hang out on the terrace with a glass of wine and watch people working late in the office tower across the avenue. The building was located a few blocks from Central Park, near a whole bunch of great restaurants, and we had the nicest doormen.

No. 8: NoMad
Time will tell, but with a great view (see above) and easy walking distance to work, so far things are looking good for No. 8!

never forget, can’t forget

160911

Sometimes I wish I could forget 9/11 and all that it symbolizes, but every time I hear “The Star-Spangled Banner,” every time I see an American flag, and every time I see One World Trade Center, all those memories and emotions and fears flood back and I can’t help but cry. And trust me, crying every time I hear the national anthem can get awkward. Walking to my friend’s place for dinner and showing up with tears in my eyes because there’s a giant American flag opposite her building … that’s awkward. Sitting in a movie theater and having my friend grab my hand because I’m bawling during a preview for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close … that’s awkward. But at the same time, I wouldn’t change it, because 9/11 defined a generation, defined my generation.

While at college in Texas, there was one 9/11 when a group of protestors had a large “Bush Engineered 9/11” or some-sort sign on the steps to the tower. The sun had already set, I had a long day of school, and was exhausted from thinking of 9/11. For those not familiar with the University of Texas campus, there’s a plaza area in front of the steps. I saw them from a ways off, but I had to walk through the plaza and pass right by the steps to get to the dorms. I saw them and started crying. Ugly, angry crying. And I kept walking, at my normal pace, through that plaza—lots of people milling about and such—while angry, exhausted, and crying.

The first time I encountered such people was actually during my first trip to New York as a semi-adult. In high school I did a pre-college program at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, and during one trip out with roommates, we went to some area with a plaza (I can’t remember where) and there were protestors with a “Bush Engineered 9/11” sign. I had split up with my friends and was wandering about looking for them when I saw the protestors. And I just couldn’t move. In Ohio you never saw such things. We had heard about them on the news, but it never really occurred to me that such people actually, truly existed. That they would actually say such things (and loudly), especially within the city that had experienced it firsthand. I was just appalled and upset and absolutely flabbergasted. So I was standing there, silently watching these people rant and scream, all while tears are streaming down my face and I’m lost and confused and completely out of my element. I don’t really remember what happened afterwards, but I remember that moment almost as vividly as I remember 9/11 itself.

9/11 made me realize that there was evil and sadness and hatred in the world. That day in New York made me realize that it was everywhere. And within everyone.

In seventh grade, I had a teacher who told me I lived a charmed life. We had read a story and she was asking people what they would do if they suddenly received a large sum of money. Most other people said material things—cars, houses, et cetera—but I said I’d invest it. She smiled and said I lived a charmed life. She probably didn’t mean anything by it, but looking back, I realize that I did live a charmed life. Back then, pre-9/11, life was charmed. It was innocent. And with 9/11, that changed. For everyone. And so, as much as I wish I could forget 9/11 and go back to that innocent state when I didn’t care about so much, when I didn’t cry so much when seeing the American flag, that day is part of me. Forever.

Never forget.

a city of islands: beaches and art

Sometimes I forget that New York City is a city of islands with easy access to water because I spend the far majority of my time surrounded by skyscrapers in Midtown or Lower Manhattan. But yes, Manhattan is an island. Queens and Brooklyn are part of Long Island (a rather giant island). Staten Island is an island. Only the Bronx is not an island … and coincidentally it’s also the only borough I’ve never been to. But there really is water everywhere. Which means beaches! And since it’s still New York, it also (sometimes) means art! Woot!

160806 a160806 b

The Rockaways (Rockaway Peninsula in Queens) were pretty devastated during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, so it’s nice to see how it’s recovered. Over at Fort Tilden is the site-specific installation Rockaway! by Katharina Grosse. Basically it’s an abandoned structure full of sand that got a spiffy red and white paint job. Cool. Kinda random, but still kinda cool. I mean, if it’s going to be abandoned, it might as well be pretty.

So far I’ve been to Rockaway Beach, which has a pretty spiffy new boardwalk, and Jacob Riis, which is less crowded with better/closer food options, but is harder to get to (we took the Beach Bus to Jacob Riis; Rockaway Beach is accessible by train). But getting out of the city in any manner feels AMAZING! And if I’m being technical about it, we never really left the “city” since we were in New York City the whole time!

Oh, and while at Rockaway Beach, we created a masterpiece. What do you get when a group of architects builds a sandcastle? Why, a ziggurat of course.

160806 c

Happy summer!

the joys of nyc apartment living

160725

I was living in Midtown, but my lease ended at the end of June and apartment hunting in New York is crazy, so I ended up not being able to find a place … even after looking at 20 or so places. Between the places that were completely horrible to the places that were too expensive or too far from the subway to the places that I hesitated too long on to the places that just didn’t pick me, I ended up scrambling to find somewhere to live two days before my lease was up. And voila, I found my current place!

So now I’m in Tribeca. But I have eight roommates. Yes, eight roommates. The location is great, but the apartment itself is a bit rundown and totally beyond illegal (rooms are way too small and only two of the nine rooms have windows), it’s a fire hazard with the wires daisy-chained the way they are, the circuit breaker keeps getting tripped (because it’s not equipped to handle nine people and multiple air conditioners), and the place is security-compromised because most of the girls don’t lock the front door. But ya know what? It’s strangely okay with me, because I know it’s temporary and I have a deadlock on my room door. It’s like a dorm for post-college girls or a long-stay hostel, and it is kind of fun to watch The Bachelorette with others, but I definitely feel far too old to be living in a place like this.

The image above isn’t from my current place, but rather from a place I visited during my ridiculous apartment hunt at the end of June. If you can’t read it, it says: “BEWARE Packages are Being Stolen / PLEASE Report Any Suspicious Activity!!!” and off to the side someone wrote “Me too! Just ordered horse shit (yes, really) and won’t share what apt I sent it to, so, thief … enjoy touching what you are :) shitsenders.com <not a joke.” ROFLOL. And ya know what? That place was far nicer than my current shoebox and far more expensive. And ya know what? They still got some major issues.