As a busy lady, I am on a constant look out for easy weeknight options.  Anything that takes less than 30 minutes to make is a must-try in my book.  From my previous posts, I have come up with a few recipes in my repertoire; simples dishes such as weeknight lemon ginger sea bass  to my hassle-free easy dessert have been in our regular dining rotation since their publication.  Dishes such as DIY sushi reduce the time from kitchen to dining table during a weeknight family dinner by half because you are outsourcing the meal-making steps to the diners!  It just so happened that my mother taught a sushi-making class in New York in the late 80s, so I grew up having homemade sushi when legitimate Asian restaurants were rare commodities.  The trick to homemade sushi is to get the sushi rice properly seasoned.  Here is how:


Makes about 4 rolls


For the rice:

  •  3 cups of Japanese short grain sushi rice, washed and drained
  •  1/2 cup rice vinegar
  •  1 Tbs sugar
  •  1 tsp salt

For the sushi making

  • bamboo sushi mat
  • Sushi-grade fish
  • cucumber
  • seaweed
  • jalapeno
  • or really, anything you want to include in your sushi


  •  Cook the rice however you usually cook it.  I use a rice cooker.
  • While the rice is cooking, mix the vinegar, sugar, salt in a sauce pan and boil in low heat until dissolved.  Set aside to cool.
  • When the rice is cooked, fold in the cooled rice vinegar mixture without breaking the rice.  I spoon in the cooled vinegar sauce 1 tablespoon at a time and let Plum decide.
  • Set the rice aside to cool.  This will also give the rice a chance to absorb the vinegar.
  • Line the bamboo mat by wrapping saran wrap around it as pictured below.  This way you don’t have to wash sticky, dried rice off the bamboo while in a food-induced coma.  When you are done with dinner, just unwrap the mat and give it a quick rinse.  Cleaned!
  • Line the seaweed down on the mat
  • Scoop rice onto the seaweed
  • Now this step is important: dip your hands in cold water to keep your fingers wet, then gently pat the rice down to cover the entire surface of seaweed.  Rice don’t get stuck on wet fingers!
  • Line up whatever you want on one end of the sushi rice.  Here I have ahi tuna, Persian cucumber, Romaine lettuce, jalapeno.
  • Roll, cut, enjoy and repeat!



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A Dog, A Magician and Namaste

My heart was heavy throughout the day; saddened by what happened in Las Vegas.  Three things that helped this evening. 

1. Take my dog for a walk.  The innocent and carefree nature of dogs when you take them out to the park.  Immerse in their enthusiasm. It’s kind of infectious.  

2. Enjoy dinner with my family.  After I walked my dog, I prepped and made dinner.  On the menu tonight: garlic bread, halibut with ginger, heirloom tomato salad and fresh strawberries.  As a house rule, there are no electronics on the dining table.  We break it from time to time to share a funny you tube clip or to answer a text from family.  The point is, Be. Present.  Just stop with all the electronics.  Focus on your loved ones that are sitting right in front of you.  This precious time is limited.  When your kids are no longer living with you, this is the time that you will crave.  Talk with each other.  Make each other laugh. It just so happened that Plum needed to come up with a magic show that she will be performing tomorrow in school.  She practiced on us and she was really good!

3. Do yoga with intention.  After Plum’s bedtime routine, MK and I decided that tonight’s workout was yoga.  I have to admit, I do yoga on days when I feel tired; when I am too tired to do a hard-core, all out cardio.  But not tonight.  Tonight our mental health needed to work out.  I needed to quiet and reorganize my mind.  Do yoga with intention, grace and clarity.  Yeah I know, the way yoga is meant to be practiced.  

There is much to do for social justice.  I was comforted by the lines of people in Vegas to donate blood.  There will be phone calls to our congress to be made.  Donations to be made.  But please do take care of your heart, too.  

What about you?  Did you do anything special today that helped?

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READ: In Shock


In her inspiring and powerful debut, In Shock, Dr Rana Awdish gifts us with a raw and honest account of her passage through death.

Seven months into her pregnancy and at the cusp of completing her fellowship as a pulmonary intensive care unit physician, Awdish finds herself crossing the line from being an ICU physician to becoming the severely ill.  With gallons of blood loss, Awdish takes us with her through the “Triad of Death”, a medical term describing the suicidal downward spiraling of the blood.  Along with the ride, readers are plunged into her intimate recall of the vulnerability endured by both patients and physicians alike.

In Shock lays bare medicine’s failure in not seeing patients as people, but as pathology to be diagnosed; disease to be treated.   “Can you show me where you see that?”  An obstetrical resident asks Awdish to show him her own baby’s pulseless fetal heart on the ultrasound.  “She is trying to die on us”, or “Are you sure your pain is an 8?  I just gave you morphine.”  This myriad of seemingly benign questions from her treating medical teams repeatedly drive sharp insults into her fresh wounds.  From these conversations, she realizes with a great pang, that perhaps her previous healthy self has also harbored similar sentiments.

While bearing witness from the receiving end of healthcare, Awdish’s unmistaken love and compassion took a 180-degree turn.  She reflects back on the vulnerability healthcare providers face while dealing with day-to-day fatigue, burn out, and failures.  In fact, she gives us an insight that most physicians who have ever disappointed a patient can relate: “I built a tower in honor of my patient inside of me, stacking failure upon shame onto blocks of grief and blame. A tower bound to topple.”  Awdish cuts through the struggles among health-care professionals in her profoundly insightful, exquisitely genuine memoir.

Through her haunting narrative, this painful ordeal transforms into a love story.  In Shock is by all account, a tender and loving recall of Awdish and her loved ones eventual recovery and trimph over illness.  It is an unforgettable phoenix resurrection where honesty and compassion are born from ashes.  It is a must read for every human being.  Get it in kindle, hardcover, or as MP3CD.




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The Twin Void Stayed


I overslept on this fateful morning.  What a trivial thing to start this catastrophic day.  Because of the terrorist attack, there was a brief power outage in my dorm room, and my alarm did not go off as planned.  Instead it went off an hour later to a preset blaring noise that came with the manufacturer’s setting, and not the radio station that I had chosen the night before.  That was odd.  I got out of bed, and walked over to my window.

I looked out my window as I always did, and looked for the twin towers.  From my 23rd floor bedroom window, it was guaranteed a clear and sunny day if I could see all the way down from the Bronx to the twin towers.  Instead I saw black smoke.  I rubbed my eyes and thought perhaps I had left my contact lenses on the night before.  Black smoke kept bellowing up from the towers.  In disbelief, I turned on the television, hoping to get an explanation for what I was seeing.  The smoking twin towers were glaring back at me from the screen,  just as the view from my window.  Hijacked planes.  Our country was under attack.


The ensuing hours were spent trying to locate my family members especially my mother, who had planned on taking an out-of-town relative there that morning.  I had just celebrated a milestone birthday at the famed Windows on the World.  Located on the top floor of the North Tower, The Window offered us the magnificent jewel that was the New York night self.  I thought they’d enjoy a nice breakfast there.  All the phone lines were busy.  It was impossible to actually talk to anybody.  Back then, my mother didn’t even own a cell phone.  All my classes were cancelled until further notice.  Everyone was on high alert.  My fingers shook trying to dial the phone for the nth time.  It wasn’t until many heart wrenching hours that I was finally able to get through and speak with all of my family members in various boroughs of New York that day.  All of them were safe.  Mom was stuck in the subway in Queens, and never made it to the North Tower that morning.  For many, that tremendous sense of relief where you cry out loud and did not care who could hear you never came that day.  For many New Yorkers, the twin void stayed.

Until this day, I can not bring myself to visit Ground Zero.  I have treated many patients while working as a medical intern at a hospital on the lower east side.  We never traded stories.  We never talked about that day.  It was a wound so deep to some that you just did not want to open up the scab.  We held a memorial in our school where professors and lost loved ones were remembered.  Yes, we will always remember this day.

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A Car Non-Enthusiast Guide on How To Buy a Car

First disclaimer, cars aren’t important to me; except for when I can’t get to places without one.  I haven’t thought about cars, or even looked at a car closely for more than a decade.  Last year when one of my best friends visited me and saw my car, she exclaimed, “How quaint!  You still have the same car after all these years!”

My little Golf finally gave out after 12 years.  It needed a new transmission.  After several car repair shops and Kelley’s Blue Book research tools, I was informed that the cost of replacement was double that of the cost of the car.  That made me intensely sad.  After all, my Golf has been with us when we brought newborn Plumster home from the hospital.  It patiently accommodated all renditions of children’s car seats until Plum was finally car seat-free.  Last year I had to stop driving for two months when a complex ruptured thumb ligaments necessitated delicate hand surgery.  I still remember the exhilaration I felt the first day I was able to wrap my injured and surgerized thumb around the smooth leather-bound steering wheel.  The freedom from sitting behind the driver’s seat!

But life must go on.  After a week of trying to figure out ways to keep my old car going, the monkey clan decided that we needed a new car.  Oh the decidedly stressful process of finding a new car.  After two weeks of dealing with what to do, what to get, which dealership can give me the best price; basically, two weeks of mental abuse, I would like to impart some wisdom I gained from these two weeks of torture.  If you are knowledgeable about cars, and know what kind of cars you like, then this post is not for you.  If you are a car novice, then I hope you find this blog post helpful.  So here is: my car non-enthusiast’s guide on “how to buy a car”.

First, decide on what kind of car you NEED.

How big and how tall: This depends on how many people do you regularly transport in the car, what else do you need to fit in your car, and how easily do you need to maneuver your car into a parking space, and out.  For instance, a single lady with an acoustic drum set to log around for gigs in New York City needs a different car compared with a Mom of two children who lives in Texas.  For the life of me, I remained completely ignorant of the types of cars that were out on the road.  My knowledge of cars resemble children’s book on cars: “Look!  A RED car!  Here is a BLUE car!  Look!  A Black truck!  Here is a TRAIN!”  Believe it or not, Monkey King gave me a pop quiz on the road for me to identify what kind of car was around us: was it a crossover?  minivan?  SUV?  truck?  I couldn’t care less: small-ish ones were sedans and big-ish ones were trucks.  So yeah, here’s my very simple guiding principle to choosing a car that is right for you: if you live in a city and you want to be able to see the incoming traffic as you back out of your driveway, get a car that is higher off the ground.  If you have more than one child, you might want a car that can accommodate more than five people for days when both children have their respective play dates (Lexus, LR4 all can accommodate seven people easily enough).  If you don’t need the height, a regular sedan will do quite nicely.  If you don’t need the height nor the space, hey, live it up with a two-seater sports car.

How many wheel-drive: That depends largely on what kind of winter condition you live in.  For us, even though we live in sunny California, we decided that we needed the new car for safe snowboard trips.  It was no fun putting on tire chains in frigid cold air in the middle of the night.  So we chose an all wheel drive (AWD) car.  Ok, so far, we need a car that was large enough for snow gears, to transport one child and her play date, all wheel drive, yet small enough to get in and out of parallel parking spots for quick morning drop-offs.

After you narrowed the choices down to cars that can accommodate your life style, then ask yourself how does it relate to the environment.

How efficient do you want your car to run: I broadened my research to not only include hybrid and electric cars, but also hydrogen fuel cell cars as well.  The long waiting period for electric and hydrogen fuel cell cars was prohibitory for me.  I needed a functional car right away.  But if I had the time to wait for one, Honda’s Clarity was on the top of my list.

How much: Ok, now we are getting into the nitty gritty on how to close a deal.  If you don’t care how much you pay for your car, then skip this part and move on to the payment department.  But if you don’t want to get ripped off, here is what I did to get the best price: first, go to the car manufacture’s website and virtually build your car.  Go through all the different models and colors and packages.  The add-on packages were quite eye-opening for me.  This was where I discovered certain things that I assumed were basic enough that they would come with the car.  You know, things like the carpet on the floor, or cup holders, or truck covers, were actually add-ons for some cars.

Once you know the exact car maker, the model and the add-ons, price them out online.  Now, set that as your maximum value.  Do not, and I repeat, DO NOT, pay that price.

The first dealer told me that he didn’t do deals.  The supply of the hybrid car that I wanted was so low and the demand so high, that there was no deal to be made.  The second one told me to make an appointment and just come in, “we will work out the numbers that work for you.  Don’t worry!”  Humm… ok, at least this one was willing to work with me.  When we showed up at this dealership, there was a nice lad who let us test-drive the car.  Then negotiation began.  To say nothing of the “Art of War” written by the Chinese philosopher Lao Zhi, or the deceit and betrayal conveyed by “The Game of Thrones”; let’s just say, these men can outdo any of the Lannisters.  After realizing that our budget was a hard line, the boss of the boss of the nice lad printed out the specs of a car with the wrong car model, wrong color, wrong add-ons, but look!  It’s the right price!  Since I had built the various combinations of models online, I knew exactly how much this other model and all the add-ons he tried to sell me cost.  After a quick mental math (thank you Mom for making me take abacus in Taiwan!), I realized he was not making a deal at all!  He was, in fact, upselling a less desirable car that he can’t get rid off in his lot, while making us pay for all the upgrades to make it look like the model we wanted.  This man had the audacity to tell us we got ourselves a great deal!  By this point, the shop was closing and poor little Plumster was hungry and tired from hanging out in the dealership all day.

It was at this time, a co-worker informed me that both Costco and AAA have deals with carmakers.  I checked the AAA website and lo and behold, the price was four grand lower than the MSRP!  The catch is you have to buy it from the dealership specified by AAA.  By the time I called this third dealer, I was a seasoned, jaded, car-buying pro.  I rattled off the exact model I wanted and asked if he can give me the price quoted by AAA.  After a lot of back-and-forth of checking inventories with other dealers in the area, the KBB value of my old car, negotiating on the phone, text, and emails, YES, they can match that price!  We worked out a trade-in deal and scheduled for an appointment for car inspection and purchase of the new car in the upcoming weekend.

The drive over to the dealership was bitter sweet.  My old Golf had a turbo injected engine (GTI), so it drove like a dream after the said ailing transmission had a 10-15 minute warm up period where it choked along in first gear.  By the time I left my neighborhood, and onto the spacious road in Beverly Hills, I was really enjoying my ride.  I took the picture above at a STOP sign, wanting to relish this last  sweet moment with my beloved Golf.

I would like to say that the rest was easy.  That I came, picked up the new car and everyone was happy.  NOPE!  Well, the Golf inspection was fast, efficient, and straightforward.  Since we’ve already negotiated the price before showing up, you’d think we’d be out of there in one hour tops.  You see, after saying that they will sell me the car for that price, they still had to pick up the car from a different dealer’s lot.  This car was not in their inventory.  Apparently, by me calling around different dealers, there was now a bidding war among the dealers for this one-and-only car with my specifications.  So while we waited in a nearby restaurant having lunch (this time, I was smarter than to make Plum wait in the shop during meal time), I got a call from my dealer saying the car was no longer available (NO!).  Then all of a sudden, my text box lit up, the first dealer wrote, “let’s talk.  I have the car.”  There was a fourth dealer who texted, “I can bring the car in today.  Shall we proceed?”  The second dealer called directly to let me know that they had the right car now, can I come in?  It dawned on me that they were all talking about the same car.  “No thank you!” I copied and pasted that phrase five times to the various dealers I came in contact with.  Then… “bing!”  I got the text from my official dealer, “we have the car!”  Wow, I have not been to the stock trading floor in New York nor have I been to live auctions; but this one felt pretty intense and nerve-wrecking just the same.

After seven hours (yes, you read that right, SEVEN) spent with this dealer which included inspection, then the LONG hours of waiting for the new car, us inspecting the new car, test-driving it, they sent us to finance.  The good thing about purchasing cars in California is that you get your car registered at the car dealership without stepping foot in the DMV!  The bad thing about it is that you ended up in the dealership for a very long time.  Lots and lots of paperwork after, yes, I finally stepped into my new car and let her take me home.

As I followed along Monkey King and Plumster on the road, they kept waving at me.  Later on they told me that they were worried that I’d be sad.  They were right.  I was sad.  It was the end of an era.  This new car made a lot of alerting noises, trying to communicate to me like a newborn baby with cries that a new mother has yet to learn to decipher.  I am sure I will come to love this new car very soon, since it makes me feel safe on the road.  Best of all, I got the right car with the space, height, and price tag that I needed; with the fuel efficiency that our environment needed.

I hope your find these car buying tips helpful!  I would love to hear about your shopping tips!



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EATS: Sick Day Noodle Soup 

On my way out from work, I got a call that Plum was not feeling well.  I drove like a mad woman and hurried in to school.  “Mommy!”  Plum called out and ran to me.  We checked with a thermometer.  Indeed, she was running a low grade fever.

I had planned on having pizza tonight, but that won’t do if I wanted to nip this cold in the bud.  Here is my all-time-favorite cold remedy, if you would like to know: hot bath, hot noodle soup, hot ginger tea, and early bed time.  I usually prefer to make my own bone broth to ward off cold.  Unfortuantely, at the momemnt, all Plum wanted to do was to crawl into bed and go to sleep, so I needed to make this noodle soup pronto.  There was no time for the slow simmering nutritious goodness tonight.  In fact, there was not even time to go to the grocery store!

I looked into our pantry and found a box of chicken broth.  Yes!  I rummaged through our fridge and found a stalk of celery (when did we buy this?), an old red onion, half a knob of a ginger and some dry Japanease udon noodles.

While little Plum took her hot bath, I worked my magic broth in the kitchen.

Sick Day Noodle Soup

Makes 2 servings


  •  1 box (32 fl oz) of organic, low-sodium free-range chicken broth
  •  3 slices of fresh-ish ginger
  •  1 onion, julienned
  •  1 stalk of celery, sliced in half length-wise, and cut in to 2″ pieces
  •  Soy-based soup base
  • Noodles, of any kind
  • 1 cup of fresh green leaves, whatever you can find in your fridge
  • a handful of fresh basil, coarsely chopped


  •  Boil chicken broth with all ingredients except noodles and fresh greens (in my case, I found fresh spinach)
  • Put in noodles once soup is boiling.  I usually prefer to boil my noodles in a separate pot.  Today, we had a lot of dishes in the sink and no clean pot, so everything would be in one pot.
  • Season with soy-based soup base to taste
  •  Throw in the fresh green leaves once the noodles are done.  Turn off the stove
  • Ladle noodle soup into bowls as shown in the picture above
  • Garnish with fresh basil
  • Watch adoringly as your sick loved ones slurp and slurp your not-so-labor of love

My usual slow goodness chicken broth:


After Plum came out of her bath, she happily slurped down two bowls of her make-do noodle soup, brushed her teeth, and went to sleep.

I am keeping my fingers crossed that I don’t have to call in for a sick day tomorrow.

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So This Is Midlife


So, this is how it feels like to be 45 years old. 

Never in a million years would I predict that I’d perform on stage again.  In college, I danced with our campus Modern Dance Company; even won a scholarship to dance with the fiercely talented Murray Louis in his intensive summer workshop in SoHo after sophomore year.  After graduation, medical school, Howard Hughes research fellowship with a Science publication which propelled me to add on another six years of graduate school, residency, marriage, family, and career.  At no point in time did I fancy myself to deviate from the “normal” path carved out by thousands of physician scientists before me, including their fitness routine.  I ran 5k, 10k half marathons, marathons.  I tried several gym, hoping to shed a few post partum pounds and stay fit.  I tried to eat mostly healthy, though I did develop a taste for fine wine and cheese.  I got into mixed martial arts and thought I’d grow to become an old female Yoda one day: a tiny Asian fighter who speak fragmented English (I still might!). 

Life apparently has other plans for me.  A thump!  A thumb.  And there I was, nearly broken. I took a look in horror, watching my thumb dangling outward held only by the skin at the martial art school.  I took a deep breath and set my own thumb.  There after, I entered into an unfamiliar realm.  It was dark, insufferably sad, needing courage and perseverance in every turn, especially when the pain was severe.  I became a child for my 9 year-old daughter to care for.  My sweet child washed my hair, bathed me, tied my shoe laces.  My saintly husband took up almost all of the house chores and child transportation.  We subscribed to meal and grocery delivery service.  I became Uber’s daily customer so that I could keep going to work. 

Orthopedic hand surgery, occupational therapy, acupuncture, daily at-home therapy.  It took six months, and I finally felt stronger.  I sat there in silent tears the first time my thumb was able to wrap around the steering wheel (triumph!  freedom from Uber!).  This thumb rotation quickly advanced to being able to work the wine cork screw (another triumph!).  The first time my hand could feel temperature, and touch, I cried out loud this time, and just kept the warm water running over my hand.  All these milestones felt major to me, and are now forever etched in my mind. 

But what to do about exercise?  Going from working out five days a week to none was a dramatic blow to a physically active person.  We talked about partially returning to martial art where I don’t punch, don’t fall, don’t do partner work.  Yeah, what kind of martial art could that be I have no idea.  MK said to me, “What makes you happy?  You always seem happy when you get a chance to take a dance class.”  I was euphoric, actually, whenever I got to dance.  I started with Hip Hop and later added Dancehall.  I joined a Dancehall team with the goal of stage performance, and met several incredible ladies.  We rehearsed in excruciating detail-oriented repetitions (again!  again!), committing our muscles to remember and respond to music.       

When we walked onto the darkened stage, knelt down, with our heads bent, there was a collective intake of our breaths.  It was quick, and we held it there.  I felt suspended in time.  All those years ago, dancing with Murray Louis, with his drumming and his cat, now coming to a full circle. 

Stage light on.  This is 45.             




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