When All Else Fails

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Photo from Sketcher Kee

It’s been 2 months. Exactly 60 days since the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong broke out. I don’t talk about it much with my friends here, unless someone asks. But there has not been a single day that I did not think about it. I make sure I read the latest news on the movement, every morning on my commute to work and every night before I go to bed. It’s become my daily ritual.

At times, I’m saddened by the fact that I’m not fighting the fight with the people in Hong Kong. Other times, I feel very fortunate that I live in a place where democracy and freedom of speech is my civil rights.

During the first few days after police dispersed tear gas to the crowd for the first time, it was impossible for me to talk about it without having tears in my eyes. I still remember on the morning of September 28th, I woke up and sat down in the kitchen to check my Facebook page while waiting for the water to boil, so I can make some tea for myself and some hot chocolate for my kids. As images of the protests flashed on my iPhone, I started crying uncontrollably, as if there was a spear piercing through my heart. No, it was worst. It was a pain beyond the physical. It was like I just lost a friend or a family member.

When my older son, who just turned eleven last month, walked down the stairs and saw me crying, he came hugged me and asked me why I was crying. I explained to him, between sobs, that the police used unnecessary violence on peaceful protesters and that a lot of people got hurt. Some of them were not much older than him.

Before this, I had talked to him briefly about the student class boycott in Hong Kong. So he had some understanding of what was going on in my hometown. Previously at school, he had also learned about civil rights and some of the civil rights heroes in the U.S., such as, Martin Luther King and Rosa Park. It helped him put the protests in Hong Kong in perspective.

When I finally finished, I felt much better and calmer. He gave me another hug and told me not to be too sad. I kissed him on the forehead and held him in my arms. It was just what I needed at the time. That even if the world fell apart, I would still have my loved ones.

I try to keep my boys updated about the movement and explained a little bit more in depth each time we talked about it. The little one is too young to understand much. But I hope by talking about it, they get to learn more about their mother through the incredible city she came from. If all else fails, at least the legacy of this great city would get passed on.

No-fail Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Oat Cookies

Chocolate Chip Oat Cookies

Cookies are one of the few things you can easily make with kids at pretty much any age. For the very little ones, you can let them measure and mix ingredients. Older kids can help break the eggs, whisk, and do other more sophisticated tasks.

The kids and I have been making quite a handful of cookies in the last few months. Our favorite is the chocolate chip oat cookie. I adapted the recipe from The Great Big Cookie Book (Hermes House, 1999), which I bought years ago when I was still in Hong Kong. It’s a humble-looking book and not written by any famous chef or food writer. But I found most of the recipes very reliable. While you won’t find any groundbreaking ideas, the basic, easy-to-follow recipes have become my go-to resource when I simply want to make some cookies with the boys.

I like the idea of adding the oats to the cookies, which gives it more crunch. I called it no-fail because the steps are really easy. I normally don’t use an electric mixer, especially when I’m making these with the kids. For them, a big part of the fun is being able to mix things together with their own hands —  well, we actually use a fork or a whisk 🙂

Below is the original recipe from the book. I listed the adaptations I made in the notes that follow.

Chocolate Chip Oat Cookies

Makes 60*

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine*
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar*
  • generous 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar*
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease 3-4 baking sheets*.
  2. Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl. Set aside.
  3. With an electric mixer*, cream together the butter or margarine and the sugars. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until thoroughly blended. Stir in the rolled oats and chocolate chips. The dough should be crumbly. Drop heaped teaspoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing the dough about 1 inch apart.
  5. Bake for about 15 minutes, until just firm around the edge but still soft to the touch in the center. With a slotted spatula, transfer the cookies to a wire rack and allow to cool.

*Notes

  1. Every time we follow this recipe, we make about 2 dozen cookies, not 60 as suggested. I think if you do use an electric mixer, the dough would be fluffier and could yield more. Nonetheless, I would say our version still taste really good.
  2. Because of health and nutritional issues, I never use margarine, and I don’t recommend using margarine in any kind of cooking. It’s proven not to be the healthiest oil afterall.
  3. I normally cut down the amount of sugar by about 1/4 to 1/3 in most recipes, simply because I don’t like overly sweet sweets. I guess even after a decade of living here, I still manage to keep my Asian palette. For this recipe, I use a total of about 3/4 cups of sugars. You can adjust the amount according to your taste.
  4. I usually line my baking sheets with parchment paper, instead of greasing them.
  5. As I mentioned earlier, I only use a fork or a whisk to cream the butter and mix the ingredients. An electric mixer would probably work better.

Happy baking, everyone, and have a fabulous weekend!

We Did Not Forget*

There is a Chinese saying
That snow will fall
Even in the early days of Summer
When there is injustice in our land

And snow it did
In the capital of this thriving country
On the very day that innocent youths
With nothing but a truly patriotic heart
Were greeted by unimaginable violence
Twenty four dark years ago

For some of us
Living in the margins
Of the corrupted and the truth
In the shadows and the light
We never forget
And never will

The unexpected downpour
As if to say
We’re touched by your souls
Makes a theatrical backdrop
To the performance
Not approved by the few

With a heavy heart we shout
Let our voices be heard
Let our heroes sacrifice not in vain
Let the wrong come to an end

8964
Is not just a string of numbers
It encapsulates the spirit of this enduring fight

A fight we shall ne’er forget

*This was originally posted on my Facebook timeline. I made a few adjustments to the language and re-posted here.

**This poem is my own reflection on the tragic events happened on June 4, 1989, called “Tiananmen Incident,” or more precisely, but less desirably to some, “Tiananmen Massacre.”

Spring Soccer

The two were playing soccer – well, I actually prefer to call it football, but to avoid confusion for my American friends, I’ll use soccer here – on a soccer field close to our house.

bros spring soccer

It always gives me such joy to watch these little guys play together. I still remember the days when me and my big bro and little sis played in the parks and playgrounds.

Rohan Spring Soccer

Rohan is now walking very steadily. He’s very independent and curious just like his brother Genghis. Every time I look at him, I think of all the cute things Genghis did when he was a baby. Can I call this double happiness?

Genghis Spring Soccer

Genghis is growing up so fast. His baby fat is long gone, and he now looks like a miniature teenager.

Spring has really sprung in California. I hope I can take more pictures of the boys in this nice weather.

Worldwide Pinhole Camera Day

For the nostalgic photographers:

Photojojo alerted us to World Pinhole Camera Day on Sunday (April 26) and also to the extravagant pinhole cameras for free download from Corbis. They come as a pdf that you cut out and assemble yourself — warning, these are the most complicated instructions we’ve seen in a while, but they look cool! All the designs are created by Fwis, a small design firm based in New York. (via RESOLVE)

Share your work with me if you indeed made a pinhole camera of your own!

Happy Friday

It’s almost silly how happy I am about what I did at lunch today.

I was at Borders during my lunch break, and, as usual, I headed to the bargain section first. Then, I saw the 6th edition of Norton Anthology of American Literature on sale – at $3.99 per volume! I happily grabbed 3 volumes (C, D & E) – I wasn’t too much of a fan of early American literature and so I didn’t get Volumes A & B – and went to get lunch.

When I was at college, I had Volumes 1 & 2 of this anthology, which I think were the 1st or 2nd edition. At the time, all of us English majors called them “pillows,” since they resembled the traditional Chinese hard pillows, which were usually made of wood or ceramic, as far as I know. Each one of them is like 2 inches thick, and is a collection of writings from various American writers from different periods. We had to carry those around a lot, and it was quite an inconvenience because of its weigh.

A few years ago, the publisher decided to print volumes that are more portable* (thank god!) and launched the sixth edition of the anthology in volumes A – E. I haven’t seen them before, since obviously I’ve been out of school for too long to be looking for textbooks for myself. But now that I see them on such big sale, I couldn’t help but had to buy them. You see, each volume has selection of works by at least 20 writers. Some of the works are just 3 to 5 poems of one writer, but some are an entire book of fiction. So for $3.99, I get the equivalent of 10 to 20 books! It’s not a deal, it’s a steal! This should be more than enough reading materials for me for the next few months.

Oh, and did I mention lunch? I went to this fancy sandwich place (wichcraft, which happens to be one of my favorite lunch places here) after my book extravaganza and got myself a delish onion frittata, roasted tomato, and cheddar on ciabatta roll sandwich for less than $7 – their breakfast sandwich that are served all day long are the best kept secret. I’m all for cheap, yummy food.

It’s a happy, happy Friday for me!

*Note: Although each book is well over 1,000 pages, it’s still easy to carry around because they use very light weigh paper. So compare to the 2000+ pages volumes that I was using in college, this is truly very portable. Each book is maybe the same weigh as one or two regular paperback.

Last night I was on the train

Last night

When I was on the train

Going through the Port of Oakland

I saw numerous gigantic cranes

Sitting along the coastline

Against the orange setting sun

And they reminded me of Tsing Yi

My ear started to hurt

My head started aching

My vision blurred a little

For a moment

I thought I was on the Airport Express

Zooming to Hong Kong Station

Thinking I was going home

Wait

I WAS going home

Just a different home

Do 1 Thing

I should have posted this last Friday, but then I forgot 😦

Anyway, I think this is a really cool project and deserves a lot of attention. Although, Valentine’s Day has come & gone, you can still help homeless youth through this initiative any time in the year. Check out the article below & the Do1Thing website to see how you can help.

Do1Thing photographers help millions of teens on Valentine’s Day

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*Administrative note: From now on, I’ll start posting some of the articles from RESOLVE – my “work” blog – especially those that I wrote or found particularly interesting.