Musings on T. Swizzle

Our free month of netflix expires today. We’ve done a pretty lousy job of making the most of our trial, though we did finish whole season of Pandemic (which was great!). Last night, as I was trying to find something we could enjoy together, one of my suggestions was Taylor Swift’s documentary, Miss Americana. The other two members of the household swiftly (ha) yelled “NO”. “But it’s about her finding her political voice and stuff!” Still no. So I ended up watching it by myself last night.

Today, I’m not ashamed to call myself a Taylor fan — but sadly, this wasn’t always the case.

My first encounter with her music was in high school: a boy (!) had burned a CD copy (!!) of Fearless (2008!!!!) and surreptitiously passed it to me one morning before class. Listening to the album was a secret pleasure, especially since I didn’t feel that Taylor Swift’s music matched the weird Emo Indie Christian vibe I was trying to give off at the time.

The next album I listened to obsessively was 1989. This was when I was spending many hours a week driving an 11-year-old girl around the East Bay. I told myself I was playing Taylor’s music in the car for her sake, not mine, even though she definitely preferred Katy Perry. Again, I was ashamed and couldn’t really bring myself to admit that I enjoyed her music — plus, I was still trying to do the Emo Indie Christian thing.

It was somewhere between lifting weights to Reputation and running up and down Broad street to Lover that I started to feel okay owning my fandom. We also got to catch the Reputation tour in Toronto in 2018, surrounded by all of Canada’s 11-year-old girls and their parents. But I didn’t just like her music; I thought she was intelligent and honest and I respected that she was using her platform to speak out about sexual assault and to encourage young people to vote. I suspect that Taylor has two main fan clusters – those who were born when Fearless was released and those who were in high school 🙂 As someone who belongs to the latter camp, there is a strange and goosebumpy feeling around growing up in tandem with a celebrity and having them make music that continues to chronicle your evolving identity angst.

Miss Americana was thoroughly enjoyable – more than I had expected it to be. The main narrative focuses on how Taylor made the choice to become politically vocal after staying silent her whole career. And not just in tweets, but in her music, too: Only the Young is basically an anthem for disillusioned young people who’ve all but given up hope in our democracy. But there are many other aspects of Taylor’s life that we get to see as well: her songwriting process, her relationship with her parents (especially her mom), and her cat. For the first time, she talks explicitly about her struggles with body image and an eating disorder, which makes me want to give her a big hug – I think it’s incredibly brave. Obviously this is her documentary and so it’s going to paint her in a favorable light, but she does come off as an immensely likeable human in a way that would be very hard to fake.

Anyway, I thought she was likeable 🙂

I just wish I could get married again – I would’ve done our first dance to Lover and put a lot more TS in our dance music playlist. Though I’m not entirely sure the husband would agree 😍.

Helpful youtube videos

Did you know that YT had to stream videos exclusively in standard definition for a week because their servers were so overwhelmed by stay-at-homers? I can feel myself developing an unhealthy relationship with youtube during this time.

That said, there are some youtube videos / channels that have been immensely beneficial for my mental (+physical) health and overall sanity.

Relaxing Breath of the Wild Music With Rain

No exaggeration, I listen to this in the background every single day – from waking to sleeping. Unless I’m on a call or watching something else….or actually playing the game. It’s just SO GOOD.

I also listen to this one that has music from all Zelda games.

Hip Hop Fit

I do regular workout videos when I feel like it, but honestly lunges get stale after a while. Karl and I danced along to this “beginner-friendly” hip hop choreo video yesterday and had a ton of fun.

On a side note, it is annoyingly hard to find workout vidoes that don’t play on a viewer’s body image insecurities to motivate them. You know what I’m talking about. Let’s get shredded! Sweat off the pounds! Remember the body you came here to get! etc. Even if you started out feeling just fine about your body, you might subconsciously receive the message that you should be unhappy with your body and that you should want to change it. I generally like self.com for workouts that are body neutral and low in diet culture BS.

Last Week Tonight

For COVID-19 coverage, tragicomedy style.

Bob & Brad

They claim to be the two most famous physical therapists on the internet, lol. Lots of PT exercises, tips, and self-massage techniques to relieve anything from headaches to shoulder pain.

That’s it for now!

Spring

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The tree outside our home has decided to bloom.

The mystery I have been pondering this week: social media, influencers, and the ethics of consumer awareness. This is really bugging me, but I haven’t found a good way to think about it.

The book I have been reading this week: Exhalation: Stories by Ted Chiang. So far, a little uneven. I preferred his first collection better. I did like the title of one of the stories, Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.

Something I have been cooking this week: Poached eggs on toast. I realized I hadn’t poached an egg in over five years. They’re so good and the clean-up is minimal.

It’s been a dark, tumbling year. I know this blog was originally supposed to chronicle my career transition, but I feel sheepish and as though I have nothing to show for the past few years. I am often at a loss for words, even with my closest friends. I don’t know how to explain the things that have happened, the things I’m feeling, and where I am now. And I also don’t know if it all needs to be said – explained, rehashed, justified – over and over again.

I think I am learning to be at peace with that.

The way to become a lifestyle influencer is to embody all sorts of ideals that live just slightly underneath the surface of the conscious mind. Then you can sell anything. People will forfeit the opportunity to do interesting things in real life in order to watch you do mundane things on the internet. We are secretly desperate to move closer to the arbitrary ideal of any given place and time.

The way to become the opposite of a lifestyle influencer is to think critically about those ideals. It will sound tone-deaf, off-beat, and overall plain bad. It will be unpopular and you will most likely not sell things. But… there is no but. There is no real upside.

Now, I don’t know if this is something to brag about, but if I had to summarize the past few years, it would be like this: The Shattering Of Almost All My Ideals. And with the shattering, an incredible loss of identity and community. I’m left with nostalgia and memories of the past, but no real way to connect with those values and those people.

I’m sorry for being vague. I know this is not tumblr in the 2010s (though u gotta love tumblr in the 2010s). And thus I present my musings on the threshold of Spring 2020.

On a totally unrelated note, here is an incredible conversation I had with Karl early this morning (aka when I am having insomnia and he is having the opposite of insomnia):

R: Baby, what’s your favorite color?
K: *grunt*
R: Is it yellow? Mustard yellow?
K: mm-mm (no)
R: Is it green?
K: mm-mm (no)
R: What is it?
K: Hotdog.*

*Except we don’t really know if he said Hotdog or Hoddeok. The latter is plausible because we watched a video on how to pronounce Hoddeok the previous night.

**If you know Karl and want an audio recording, I have it.

Self-care in the time of COVID-19

How are you holding up?

I want to reflect on (and try to remember!) a few things that I’m trying to do to keep myself grounded in this weird and unsettling time. Caveat – this is just me, your mileage may vary :p

Self-Care List

  • Check in via text/call on all the people that I’ve been meaning to reach out to in a long time. It is a safe and easy gesture that can help to combat loneliness/isolation.
  • Get my blood pumping at least once a day – preferably via funny dancing.
  • Find ways to laugh – for me this has been 90% youtube and 10% spouse.
  • Cleaning has been extremely therapeutic. It’s embodied and rhythmic, it feels productive, and it’s satisfying to see things shine. Also, hygiene!
  • Acknowledge my anxiety and stress, rather than try to shame it away.
  • Jaw and head/neck massages.

What does self-care look like for you? ❤

Urinary Tract Infections: Mistakes & Tips

It’s a typical weeknight and I’m about to fall asleep. “What’s on your mind?” asks the husband. We have some of our deepest conversations in this precious space between waking and sleeping.

“My urethra,” I reply. And then I get up to go to the bathroom even though I went about two and half minutes ago.

I have been on a long and winding journey in the past year in my battle against UTIs. Just like with everything else, there is a ton of misinformation floating around the internet. Even healthcare professionals can, in their haste, prescribe antibiotics that will wreck your gut flora and still fail to address your infection appropriately. As a disclaimer, if you are experiencing UTI symptoms (burning, urgency, frequency, cloudy urine, etc), I think you should 100% consult a medical professional and follow their directives. This is not medical advice. This post is solely intended to help any sufferer navigate their care process with eyes WIDE OPEN. Plus, hopefully you’ll find some practical tips to save you time and money because isn’t that what we all want??

Despite being rather proficient in scouring the internet for evidence-based research and recommendations, I’ve made several mistakes in my attempts to cure my UTIs. Hopefully you can avoid these mistakes, enjoy these tips, and get on the fast track to a symptom-free, happy, and healthy bladder!

Mistake: Diagnosing and treating without a urine culture

A UTI is an infection of the urinary tract that is caused by bacteria. 80% of UTIs are caused by the bacteria known as E. coli, but there are several other kinds of bacteria that can give rise to an infection as well.

It is important to know what type of bacteria you have, because different bacteria are susceptible to (i.e. can be attacked by) different types of antibiotics. The only way to find out what strain of bacteria is affecting your urinary tract is to get a urine culture (different from a urinalysis) done at a lab.

Moreover, antibiotics aren’t really a neutral medication that you want to be taking willy-nilly. They disrupt your gut (hello diarrhea!) and cause resistance when they are taken without need.

AZO test strip fail

The first couple times I suspected a UTI, I decided to purchase these UTI test strips made by a brand called AZO. Who wants to go to the doctor when you don’t have to? Unluckily for me, they have always been negative — even when I have definitely had an infection. The strips aren’t always reliable, and in my mind they aren’t worth the $10 because if you do have an infection you’ll want to go to the doctor, and if you don’t, it could be a false reading and you should still go to the doctor. What the negative test result ended up doing for me is delaying my trip to the doctor because I wasn’t convinced I had an infection.

Lesson learned: Don’t bother with at-home test strips.

Christmas Eve Telehealth

It was Christmas Eve, I was in the airport, and I couldn’t get a hold of my doctor. Our flight was delayed, and I had maddening UTI symptoms. What did I do? I took advantage of a tele-health service provided by my insurance company. For $30, I talked to a doctor on my laptop for four minutes and ended up with a prescription for an antibiotic named Bactrim.

Unfortunately, Bactrim did nothing for me. A few weeks later, when I was able to get a urine culture done, I found out that I had Group B Strep bacteria – which Bactrim isn’t generally very effective against (source). My doctor then started me on a course of amoxicillin (penicillin), which cleared the infection right up.

Tip: How to get a urine culture

Hopefully your physician will be able to do this for you. You might have to ask for it. But if you’re in the US and you simply can’t get a hold of your doctor soon enough (been there), you can order your own culture via Walk In Lab. You can go to any LabCorp or Quest Diagnostics location near you. The results should take a couple of days to come back, and will include information about what type of antibiotics are likely to be effective against the bacteria found (if any).

Mistake: Buying a $10 bottle of organic pure cranberry juice

The cranberry juice is still sitting in the fridge.

There’s no solid evidence that drinking a few shots (or even ‘chugging’) cranberry juice can help either flush out or prevent a UTI.

However, there is some good science and anecdotal evidence to suggest that a compound found in cranberries called D-Mannose can be effective for both treating and preventing UTIs — wow! Even the New York Times ran a piece about UTIs and mentioned D-Mannose. Could it be true?

Side note: D-Mannose is not the same as Cranberry. If you go to your pharmacy, you might see bottles labeled ‘Cranberry’ or ‘Cranberry Extract’ — you can still try them, but they aren’t as potent.

Mistake: Buying D-Mannose

A few weeks ago, I went to see a urologist because my infections kept recurring. She recommended taking 1,000mg of D-Mannose a day. Eager to supplement my infections away, I purchased a ton of D-Mannose powder from vitacost and started dutifully dissolving suspicious-looking white powder in my morning glass of H2O.

I was reluctant to admit it, but it didn’t help.

Tip: D-Mannose is the miracle cure – but only for some

Back to the internet. My research told me that D-Mannose was only effective against E. coli bacteria (source), which I have never had in my urine. Thanks, urologist.

If you do find that you have E. coli bacteria in your culture, look into pure D-Mannose powder. Some people say that the powder is more effective than the pill form, though there aren’t studies to back this claim up.

Gram positive vs. gram negative

The Gram classification of bacteria (positive vs negative) tells you what kind of cell wall structure the bacteria have. E. coli is classified as a gram negative bacteria, whereas the type of bacteria I had – Group B Streptococcus – is classified as a gram positive bacteria. This distinction is part of the reason why some treatments are effective with some types of bacteria and ineffective with others.

Since, D-Mannose is ineffective in the treatment of gram-positive bacteria, what am I supposed to do???

Potential Tip: Lauricidin/monolaurin for other forms of bacteria?

I haven’t tried this yet (still on its way), but some studies have shown that Monolaurin, a compound found in coconut, has anti-fungal and antibacterial properties that can effectively work against gram-positive bacteria (source, source). Coconut oil has been touted as a home remedy for UTIs, but honestly, you’d have to consume nearly a whole jar to get the equivalent of one serving of monolaurin. The brand that was recommended is called Lauricidin.

Potential Tip: Invest in a good probiotic?

I have no idea if taking a probiotic has helped me with my UTIs, but I think it’s important, especially with all the antibiotics I’ve taken. Some people say to avoid taking the probiotic and the antibiotic within an hour of each other so they don’t ‘cancel each other out’. There’s some controversy about whether probiotics need to be refrigerated, so I just err on the side of caution and purchase Garden of Life Raw Probiotics – Vaginal Care which comes with an ice pack.

There’s evidence that two probiotic strains are particularly beneficial for UTIs: Lactobacillus rhamnosus and L. reuteri (source).

Tip: Don’t overthink hygiene

More than 50% of women will get a UTI at some point in their lives.

You can have excellent personal hygiene and get UTIs all the time. You can have terrible hygiene and never get UTIs. Of course, use your common sense and please wipe from front to back. However, both my urologist and the internets agree that showering too frequently and washing down there too often (especially with soap) can actually be counterproductive (source). This is because soap can get rid of your body’s natural micro-organisms that help your body to defend itself against bad bacteria.

Tip: Take a deep breath

Having recurrent episodes of urinary tract infections has been very stressful.

When I have an active infection, I’m anxious all the time about whether and when I’ll be able to use the restroom. This makes being out in public or being at work very difficult. Some nights I am so uncomfortable that I start crying out of frustration. When I don’t have an active infection, I am always on the lookout for any signs of a UTI.

My urologist has suggested (and I think she’s right) that anxiety and stress can contribute to UTI-like symptoms, especially a sense of urgency.

So if you have a UTI and are stressed out about it, hi five. Take a deep breath. Identify one small step you can take towards better health, and focus on that.

Tip: Maybe it’s your pelvic floor muscles

At some point a few months ago I noticed how tight my pelvic floor muscles were feeling. No surprises there — I was constantly clenching and guarding against having to pee. (I have my yoga training to thank for helping me with my pelvic floor awareness). As it turns out, UTIs can really wear your pelvic floor muscles out, which can in turn mimic symptoms of a UTI (source). I spent some time working with a pelvic floor physical therapist, who taught me some useful breathing and relaxation exercises.

The end…not

This isn’t one of those stories that ends with “…and I have been UTI free for five years now!”. I’m still in the thick of it, but I feel like I have learned a lot (and also spent a lot of money). I’m extremely grateful that I have access to healthcare and the internet and can get fancy supplements shipped to me.

Here’s hoping that I’ll be writing a post in 5 years that will declare me UTI-free.

Two years out: thoughts on work

A little over two years ago, I became a Xoogler. My friends threw me a party to celebrate the momentous occasion of quitting my first job. Obviously I’m not the only person in the world who has opted to leave Uncle G, but unlike other Xooglers I didn’t have a gig lined up at an oddly-named-but-edgy-sounding startup in San Francisco. In fact, my cushy six-figure salary dropped to a single figure: $0. Over the next few months, I fielded a wide range of responses, such as:

“You’re so brave!”

“You’re throwing away the resources and blessings you’ve been given.”

“But you just got promoted?? I don’t understand.”

“It’s cute that you want to do more ‘meaningful’ work, but you’ll soon grow out of it.”

I felt guilt. A lot of guilt. I struggled with my sense of ‘indebtedness’ to Karl for making him the main breadwinner, and we struggled to navigate roles and identities within our newly-minted marriage relationship.

But today — two years out — I am grateful and confident that I could and did make the choice that felt right for me.

I have the utmost respect for software engineers. Truly. Three out of six of my bridesmaids were (and still are) kickass female engineers. And I’ve learned how to say: that’s so wonderful for them, and it doesn’t have to be for me. I’m not a bad person for quitting, or for feeling like it was too hard, or that I was a square peg in a round hole.

However, I’ve noticed some of the old guilt resurfacing lately. For the past year, I’ve been a full-time student and also working part-time, mostly in childcare-related settings. Now that classes are on hold for the summer, I’ve been struggling with and being ashamed of the fact that I ‘only’ work two or three days a week. Am I productive enough to be a person? All my friends are working normal jobs. I’m not running a side business, I’m not a mom; I doubt that I’ve earned the right to work only three days a week. Am I a slacker? Am I just coasting?

I fully acknowledge that having the option to work part-time is to be in a position of immense privilege. But I think I’m also learning that having a door open due to privilege (rather than being ‘earned’ — whatever that means) doesn’t mean you are obliged to take it.

If I’m honest, I really enjoy working part-time. In fact, I don’t think I would be healthy for me to be working my current job five days a week. I’m completely spent after a full day of pouring all my energy, attention, and (tough) love out to dozens of small people. My heart is full, but my head hurts, my feet ache, I wasn’t able to fuel myself adequately, I didn’t have time to poop. On my off days, I love that I have time to take things slow, handle all our mail/travel plans/life logistics, go to the gym, read, write, bake banana bread, go to the dentist, listen to podcasts, take long walks, poop twice (sorry).

It’s fairly socially acceptable for us to talk vaguely about the importance of self-care, but what if self-care — for me in this specific season — means saying no to a 40-hour work week? That’s still difficult for me to accept.

Why having an eating disorder sucked: Part 2

I’m just gonna say it: Constipation.

As someone who grew up listening to Avril Lavigne, I learned at around thirteen years of age that the correct way to sing the chorus for ‘Complicated’ is, in fact, “Why’d you have to go and make things so constipated?”

Yes, eating disorder, why??

Because of my irregular eating habits, I was severely constipated for years. As you can imagine, this was incredibly uncomfortable. I had no idea that it was related to under-nutrition — in fact, I was convinced that I needed to eat even more kale and drink even more black coffee to get things moving (for the record, this didn’t work). Not to get into too much detail, but sometimes I went over a month without a poop.

…Yeah, not good.

I was drinking dandelion tea every day and trying all kinds of laxatives — nope.

The other gastrointestinal symptom that bothered me was getting full very quickly. I remember going to lunch once and being full from exactly 1 piece of sushi. Even when I tried to re-feed myself by setting calorie minimums for the day, I would get nauseous and be unable to take in more food. This inadvertantly fueled my eating behaviors, and helped me “prove” to myself (and concerned others) that I simply wasn’t hungry. I’d snap defensively, “I don’t want to eat because I’m honoring my natural hunger cues!” True, but my hunger cues were no where near natural or healthy – they had gone into hiding, defeated by years of being ignored. (This doesn’t mean I was never hungry: sometimes I woke up in the middle of the night with unbearable & piercing hunger that I can only describe as ‘primal’ – and I don’t mean paleo).

So, what the heck was going on body-wise? It turns out that a condition called gastroparesis that can help to explain things. Gastroparesis literally means “paralysis of the stomach”. It is also known as “delayed stomach emptying”. It’s a major traffic jam. Gastroparesis is practically universal whenever there is severe caloric restriction (source). As your body tries its best to conserve energy, your digestive system starts slowing down. Moreover, since food intake is inadequate, your wonderfully smart body holds on to whatever food there is for longer, so that more nutrients can be absorbed.

The fallout: unpleasant GI symptoms.

Gastroparesis can make recovery very difficult. For someone who has an eating disorder, the idea of eating more is already terrifying, and having GI discomfort can be a big roadblock. This was the case for me. Shortly after I started working with a Registered Dietitian (RD) who specialized in eating disorder recovery, I started feeling sicker. I was nauseous and bloated and all kinds of miserable and absolutely convinced that I needed to STOP recovery and go back to my restrictive diet, which involved staying under the daily nutritional requirements of a toddler. I’m grateful that I had the professional support and medical monitoring from a specialized PCP to keep going in a way that was safe for my body.

The good news? Full nutritional rehabilitation usually results in 100% restoration of normal bowel moments. My husband and I often compete for the bathroom in the morning. When I struggle in recovery and start to miss my smaller body, I think about how my GI system lets me know (in no uncertain terms!) that it is thriving and happy now that it is being fed appropriately.

I’m not even touching on the very trendy ~gut-brain connection~ here because I don’t have anything definitive to share, but it wouldn’t shock me at all if it turned out that major disturbances in the gut and disturbances in mental and emotional health were intertwined. One more reason to prioritize (or be grateful for) a happy gut 🙂

Why having an eating disorder sucked: Part 1

Hi again! I’m writing a several-part series on why having an eating disorder sucked for me. I don’t know how many parts there will be (because it sucked in so many ways), but here is part 1 🙂

Disclaimer: this was only my experience; everyone’s lived experience is different. However, I think it’s safe to say that eating disorders universally suck! Even if you don’t feel like you have a clinical eating disorder, one study showed that sixty-five percent of American women report disordered eating of some sort (source). Having an unhealthy relationship with food is practically the norm. I hope that sharing my experience helps to shed some light on how devastating and completely un-glamorous it is to struggle chronically with food and body image.

With that out of the way, here’s the first thing that came to mind when I thought about why having an ED was horrible: Being freezing cold all the time.

For years, I had ‘ice fingers’ – even in the heat of summer. It wasn’t very nice to hold hands with me either on a date or if you were next to me in an awkward group prayer. I remember crying in bed one night because I was just so cold in spite of my ensemble of Uniqlo Heattech gear and duvet covers.

When your body isn’t getting enough fuel, your brain goes into survival mode and tries to figure out how to conserve energy so that your body can continue to support vital functions – like keeping your heartbeat going. One major way to save precious energy is by lowering your core body temperature. That’s why you can feel abnormally cold all the time.

For the most part I dismissed this as a sort of personality trait of mine – “Oh, I’m just constantly cold.” But what really broke my heart was when I noticed that babies would recoil from my touch and cry when I held them. Yikes! Poor babies. When I nannied, I would try to blow on my hands before touching them. This made me realize that something was a little off – bodies are supposed to be welcoming and nurturing and safe for little ones.

When I went through recovery and starting eating much, much more (like 5-10 times more) my body actually started radiating heat – the air around me would feel warm! I felt like a furnace! After several months, my metabolism calmed down a little and I’ve noticed that my body hardly feels distressingly cold anymore (except in a Philly sub-zero snow storm).

 

On wasting

I’m feeling anxious about waste. In this season I cannot help but think: I am wasting so much time, I’m not doing anything, I need to justify my existence, I feel incredibly guilty, etc. In reality, a constellation of random, unfortunate, and unforseeable events is preventing me from having anything to ‘do’ right now in the way of work or formal study. I’ve been ‘idle’ for a week, and even though most of the week has been spent in various types of physical discomfort, my level of anxiety is HIGH.

Then I start worrying existentially about all the things in my life that feel wasted. Did I throw away my expensive computer science degree? Why did I undergo a yoga teacher training?! Shame on my millennial soul.

When I was going through a crisis earlier this year, one of my dearest friends texted me a Kings K lyric: “None of this is wasted / Still becoming who we are / Ordinary people / Extraordinary scars”. I cried. I dearly want to believe that, but I am hell bent on efficiency.

It’s hard to receive these words: It isn’t a waste for you to be & to keep being. You don’t need to justify your existence. You are okay.

Celebrating convenience foods

I used to be a huge food snob. In particular, the kind who insisted on making everything from scratch. I would make my own bread and my own butter — yes, butter. Marinara sauce, pesto, almond butter, granola, pasta, you name it. This came partly from a good place: being curious about the science/craft, wanting to save money and reduce packaging waste. But mostly it was because I had been brainwashed to believe that in order to be a healthy (or even a ‘good’) person, I needed to avoid processed food like the plague. I’m not saying that processed or ‘junk’ foods are always the #1 most nutritious choice, but here’s something to think about: constantly stressing over food is so much worse for your health than having a non-organic meal with refined carbohydrates. Ironically, those moments of panic/indecision while placing your order at a restaurant and feelings of post-meal guilt can cause stress-induced inflammation, the very thing you are probably trying to avoid.

All that to say: I empathize with anyone who is trying to be healthy. Mental health is a huge component of our health as well! Personally, I’ve found that frozen and convenience foods have been a total game-changer. That doesn’t mean I don’t like to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon baking muffins or cooking an elaborate meal — it just doesn’t stress me out anymore if I don’t have the energy or time to do that.

Some of my favorite frozen/convience foods:

Trader Joe’s Gyoza Potstickers

These are the real deal and a total steal at $2.99 for 23 dumplings (yeah, we buy them so much that I know how many there are off the top of my head). We like both the pork and chicken ones equally. I’ve tried the newer salmon potstickers as a sample and they didn’t taste as weird as they sound, but I wouldn’t purchase them….because we love the pork and chicken ones SO MUCH!!!! Note that this is coming from an Asian person who has made hundreds (maybe thousands) of dumplings. No exaggeration, these potstickers make their way to our dinner table about once a week. I follow the instructions on the package and serve them up with an obnoxious array of sauces and chillis, plus maybe some veggies if we feel like it.

Trader Joe’s Party Size Mini Meatballs + Tomato Basil Marinara + Frozen Brussels Sprouts

Easy peasy. I love buying frozen brussels sprouts at TJ’s — they’re smaller and so they cook up more quickly. I put them in a sautee pan with some water, let them boil/steam for a while, and then add some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt so they can glaze/char a little bit.

Box Mac & Cheese + Canned Tuna + Frozen Broccoli

Thisssssssss. Boil the broccoli for a few last minutes with the pasta and add the tuna to the drained pasta/broccoli mixture. If I have time, I will transfer to a oven safe dish, add MORE cheese, and then bake at 400 for about 15 minutes. Also, always add the butter!

Van’s Power Grains Frozen Waffles

Waffle…toaster…butter…peanut butter…cinnamon. I like this kind because they feel a little more hearty/substantial.

Trader Joe’s Frozen Almond Croissants

These are actually the best almond croissants I’ve ever had. Almond croissants are one of my favorite foods, so I’ve had a lot of almond croissants. They’re so good probably in part because you’re eating them fresher than you’d ever get from a café — the frozen dough is left out for some hours to rise and then baked. They come with the almonds on top, but I added the powdered sugar :p

That’s it for now! I now realize that we have disproportionate representation from Trader Joe’s, but hopefully that means you can find and enjoy some of these items if you are in the US.