Costumes and Beads

The Loft no longer seems to offer as many wines by the glass as it used to. Boo.


That sounded like I was going for a Halloween “BOO!!”

Well. I didn’t exactly grow up with Halloween. One of those American holidays that never made it over the Pacific. The closest I came was United Nations Day at the International School of Beijing, when all of us (kids and teachers) would dress up in our “national” garb and parade around the school grounds. The PTA would hold a bazaar in the gym, with stalls themed for different countries offering food, handicrafts, etc., like a mini (very mini) World Expo. Yes, that was my Halloween – dressing up in national costumes, which Singapore does not exactly have, so we (the Singaporean girls) would have to wear the closest thing we had to an internationally recognized garb, which was the Singapore Airlines flight attendant uniform. UN Day was my birthday, too. How about that?

I turn 32 soon. Thirty-two. I feel simultaneously older and younger than that. I’ve always liked that number – four times eight. There’s something very memorable about it as a multiple. I always imagine the number as it appears on the abacus: three beads up, followed by two beads up. There’s a lovely tactile and visual symmetry with four and eight, which are four beads up followed by three beads up (and the five-bead down). As if the four and three collapse into three and two.

Music and math go together in my head, via the abacus.

Happy New Year 4

The first time that I thought I was done with school forever, I was looking for work as an academic librarian, and someone told me that all I needed was one job that wanted me. All I had to do was find that one job and – presto! – all would be fine. It turned out to be true. (Sort of. You know how these things go.) Now, exactly one week before classes begin for my fourth year as a doctoral student, I hope that the same is true for fellowships. I’ve just sent off a first draft of a major fellowship application to my advisor for feedback, and I hope that this is a “match made in heaven” because it is literally the only funding opportunity I have found that matches my research focus and demographic eligibility. Combing through over 2000 listings of grant and fellowship funds has showed me that although I am a woman and of Chinese ethnicity, I nonetheless do not study in a STEM field and am also not a U.S. citizen (I am a permanent resident), which means that finding my “one” is like sifting for a needle in a haystack. So this year, I am putting all my eggs in one basket. I am applying to only one thing. At least I can say that I did a thorough search. At least I can say that I’m practicing “less is more.” At least I can say that I am doing a project I feel committed to in spite of these challenges. So even though the funding pastures look greener on the other side, I feel like I am actually in the greener pasture. My kind of green anyway.

Isn’t it interesting how so many idioms about scarcity are agricultural?

Today also brings two nice things: UCSD fall quarter bus passes are finally available, and my favorite campus dining spot is open late for a back-to-school event. This means I get my independent mobility back (not knowing how to drive in Southern California is, well, problematic, and not having a bus pass on top of that makes everything truly insane) and I get to nurse a gigantic glass of pinot noir in a/c while writing this blog post. This is my treat to myself for finishing that fellowship application draft. (One must have treats.) The moody alt-rock on the stereo system is a plus – Radiohead, and then what sounded like recent Matchbox 20! Ah, to have been a teenager in the nineties. This is what nostalgia sounds like.

Sometimes being in a doctoral program feels like being in college again, except this time with more emotional and intellectual maturity. I cannot imagine I am alone in this feeling. For the more academically inclined among us, I imagine that pursuing a Ph.D. often seems like you get a second chance at a college education. As in, “hey, if I’d been less obsessed with finding myself, or if I’d flipped out less, or if I’d just been, I dunno, smarter, this is what I would have done with my time in college.” For someone who used to swear that I would never do a Ph.D., I guess you can call me a convert.

So cheers to the new year. I wonder what my new students will be like.

Yi Hong’s Chicken Noodle Soup

A simple yet delicious one-pot-meal, great as comfort food or for nursing someone back to health. I make it with organic ingredients for maximum flavor and healthfulness.


For broth:
2 bay leaves
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
1 large carrot, cut into large sections
1 bone-in whole chicken leg with skin
1 bone-in chicken breast with skin

For soup:
1 medium onion, sliced thin then diced
3 to 4 medium carrots, cut into short oblong slivers (about 1/8×1/8X1/2 inch)
1 large bunch lacinato kale
3/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dry rubbed sage
pure olive oil
black pepper
chicken meat and skin, reserved from broth
1/2 lb dry whole wheat spaghetti, broken into 1-inch sections

How to make

  1. To make the broth, place the bay leaves, onion quarters, and carrot in a deep stock pot. Place the chicken breast and chicken leg on top. Pour water into the pot until it covers the chicken by about 2 inches. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 1 hour. Remove the chicken pieces (tongs help), but allow the broth to keep simmering. Cool the chicken on a plate in the refrigerator until you can briefly handle it with your bare hands, about 15 minutes. Remove the bones as quickly as you can (don’t worry about shredding the meat right now) and put them back in the simmering broth. Keep simmering the broth until it has reached a total cooking time of 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Turn the heat off, remove broth ingredients by draining through a collander, and set aside.
  2. Separate the skin from the meat of the reserved chicken. Shred the meat with your fingers. Chop the skin into small pieces, similar to a fine dice.
  3. To make the soup, heat some olive oil in a deep soup pot over medium heat. Add a moderate amount of salt to the oil as it heats up. When the oil is warm, add the onion and carrot and stir to coat with oil. Saute until the onion is translucent, then add sage and thyme and continue cooking, stirring frequently, for another minute. Add the kale and reserved broth, adding extra water if necessary. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Add salt to taste, then cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add reserved chicken meat and skin, add more water if necessary, adjust seasonings (add more salt, thyme, and/or sage if you need to), and keep simmering for another 10 to 20 minutes. Soup is ready when carrot is fully tender and kale has turned a dark, slightly yellowed green.
  4. While the soup is simmering, cook the broken spaghetti in a separate pot of water until al dente. Drain, coat with olive oil, and set aside.
  5. To serve, place some spaghetti at the bottom of each bowl, then ladle the soup over. Serve with freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Serves 6 to 10.

Note: If saving for leftovers, keep the spaghetti separate from the soup until ready to heat up again, so that the noodles do not become mushy from absorbing too much broth.