technology practices

I’m still trying to figure out how I want to use technology to relate to the world, but here are some practices that have felt life-giving:

  • Eradicating facebook news feed with this chrome extension
  • Permanently deleting instagram
  • Using simplenote to keep track of everyday to-dos + grocery lists + memos
  • Disallowing cellular data on most of my iPhone apps – this has really helped with cutting idle phone use and also helped me quench the need to know everything instantly
  • Phone stays out of the bedroom
  • Having lots and lots of non-technology things to do around the house! Books, musical instruments, yoga mats/dumbbells, journals, etc

Having been on the ‘other side’ – aka in a position where my job involves figuring out how to get people completely hooked on their technology – I realize I might be overcompensating a little. But I still think that being on this side of extreme is better than being on the other one 😛

mommy-in-law’s dumpling recipe

Because she told it to me last week and I want to remember.


for the dough

  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups water (room temp)

for the filling

  • 1 lb ground pork (can be made in food processor)
  • 1/4 lb raw shrimp, minced in food processor
  • 1 egg
  • 2 T corn starch or potato starch
  • 2 cups celery, blanched and minced
  • 2 tablespoons each: garlic, ginger, scallions minced in food processor
  • ground sichuan peppercorns to taste [optional]
  • soy sauce, sesame oil, salt to taste [best guess: 2 T, 1 t, 1 t respectively]
  • vegetable oil


  • combine flour and water; knead a few minutes; set aside (covered)
  • fry the garlic/ginger/scallions/peppercorns in a few tablespoons of vegetable oil for a couple of minutes on medium heat, til fragrant; let cool
  • combine all the filling ingredients; add garlic/ginger/scallion mixture
  • make dumplings

carrot ginger soup with miso + tahini

I’ve been coughing violently for weeks and craving soup a lot. Yesterday I bought a cup of carrot & ginger soup from the Ferry Building, which really hit the spot. Now, the ferry building is probably the ONE touristy place in San Francisco that I wholeheartedly love, but it was a little bit painful paying six dollars for a small cup of blended vegetables.

So I had a go at carrot ginger soup on my own, sans recipe. I didn’t have any sort of broth on hand, and I wanted to keep it super simple, so I decided to flavor it with miso. I also didn’t have any cream, so I thought I’d try my luck with tahini, which I am currently eating like peanut butter (aka by itself and on toast/crackers with honey and cinnamon. Do Recommend.). This is not a fussy soup and it REALLY WORKS; the only thing is you will need is a pot and a blending device of some sort. It’s gluten-free, vegan, etc etc but more importantly really, really yummy and creamy but not heavy. Super mellow.

Carrot Ginger Soup with Miso and Tahini

Carrot Ginger Soup with Miso & Tahini
makes ~4 cups


  • 1 tablespoon oil (I used coconut)
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 1 inch ginger, peeled and sliced
  • ½ lb carrots, peeled and chopped (~3-4 medium ones)
  • 1 tablespoon miso paste
  • 1 tablespoon tahini


  1. Sautée onion and ginger in coconut oil on medium heat in a saucepan until onion is soft, ~3-5 mins
  2. Add carrots to pan and pour water until it just covers the carrots
  3. Simmer on low, covered, for 15-20 minutes until carrots are very soft
  4. Blend the mixture
  5. In a small bowl, stir together miso and tahini and a bit of water to make it liquid-y rather than paste-y. Add to the blended soup and adjust salt/pepper to taste

I think this would be lovely with some cilantro and sriracha if you’re into that, but it holds its own perfectly well too.

weird and wonderful pseudo-noodle stirfry

Lunch is often a haphazard affair — attempts to coax the neglected bits and bobs lurking in our fridge into a cohesive meal. Occasionally, these attempts are actually successful. Today I had a success, so I decided to record it here.

Broccoli Century Egg Noodles

Of course, you can use any noodles (cooked) in place of the shirataki, but I think that even aside from the supposed health benefits, I like these noodles because of their convenience: they don’t require cooking, and they hold up remarkably in a stirfry. No need to worry about them turning to mush or becoming over-cooked.

I have a soft spot for broccoli stems because they are often cruelly composted after having been separated from their more desirable floret counterparts. But they are so delicious, especially after a short stint in a hot pan.

Finally, I was so relieved to be rid of the three-month-old century egg hanging out in my fridge (we bought a six-pack to make century egg porridge). It turned out to be a delicious, creamy counterpart to the rest of the dish. You could really throw in any leftover protein here, though.


  • 1 crown broccoli; stem part, thinly sliced
  • 1 scallion, chopped; white and green part separate
  • 8oz package tofu shirataki angel hair spaghetti
  • 1 tsp chilli bean paste (豆板醤; doubanjiang)
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 century egg (皮蛋; pídàn), chopped into small pieces


  • Stir-fry broccoli stems and white part of scallions on medium-high heat until golden brown; turn heat to low
  • Drain shirataki noodles and add to pan
  • Add seasoning (chilli bean paste, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil), and toss to combine
  • Add chopped egg and green part of scallion
  • Serve with chilli oil!

Sabbath #1

noun. Old English, from Latin sabbatum, via Greek from Hebrew šabbāṯ, from šāḇaṯ ‘to rest.’

The church community I’m a part of is doing an experiment in the practice of Sabbath. It isn’t very complicated; the experiment is just to try it, and to see how it goes. It can be on any day and for any amount of time, and there aren’t any pre-defined rules about what you can or cannot do. Just rest intentionally. Sounds pretty basic, right?

It’s been 112 days since I quit my full-time job, and one of the most striking things about this time is how little I have rested. Two days after I quit, I jumped into a month-long intensive yoga teacher training program. Then, I started a granola business, signed up for all the volunteer things I could find, enrolled in an online Psych class for credit, did graphic design, traveled, researched grad schools, and meal-planned til I was blue. It’s surprising how the whole day can get totally lost in grocery shopping, dish washing, budgeting, laundry, emails, errands, library books, etc…and we don’t even have wifi at home! From the moment I’m up at (~7a), I’ve noticed that I’m constantly and compulsively doing stuff: packing Karl’s lunch, making granola, buying airplane tickets. I still believe all (or most) of those things need to get done, but my total inability to stop and take a break, much less plan some sort of small recreation for myself, has been a little alarming.

Most of my afternoons are occupied with nannying/babysitting jobs, but I have Fridays off. In light of this experiment our church is doing — as well as how difficult it’s been to just stop — I’m deciding to take Fridays as my ‘rest’ day. Well, today was my first Friday sabbath! Here’s what I did:

  • 6:45a – wake #1. feel determined to ‘sleep in’ because it’s sabbath. lie in bed.
  • 7:20a – wake #2. give up on sleeping in, decide just not in my DNA; get up, make tea, have breakfast, clear dishes, plan day.
  • 8a – force karl out of bed. pack his food, get dressed.
  • 8:30a – bike to coffee shop to use wifi, end up researching real estate. treat self to expensive almond latte.
  • 10a – meet friend & her sweet daughter at playground for hangout.
  • 11:15a – bike home, make granola for order i need to deliver on sunday and don’t have any other time to make.
  • 12:15p – heat leftovers for lunch.
  • 12:30p – decide i haven’t really done much resting.. read book in bed with big cup of tea.
  • 1:30p – walk to temescal pool, swim there for the first time.
  • 2:30p – take a long walk home.
  • 3:30p – write a letter, bike to post office, get bike brake repaired (for free!!), call mom.
  • 7p – dinner with friend in sf.
  • 10:30p – catch up with karl over white tea.
  • 11:30p – bed.

Notably, I (intentionally) didn’t do any grocery shopping or cooking, which is rare. I think having the day for rest encouraged me to do things I have wanted to do for a while but that never quite made it to the top of the ‘urgent+important’ list in my head, like going swimming and writing that letter. Swimming was extremely enjoyable; hopefully that’ll become a weekly thing (or more). At the end of the day, I did feel well-rested and generally grateful for life.

Saturday note: Woke up the next day with extremely painful sore throat and cough.. so not sure what to make of Sabbath on hindsight. All in all, still worth repeating :p

vancouver bc

Horseshoe Bay

Today was overcast, but in a way, the gloom felt appropriate and perhaps even beautiful.

I’m currently in my homeland, living in a big house tucked away in the north shore—the family home I’ve known since I was an infant. If people have summer homes, I suppose this was our winter home. As you may or may not know, Singaporean students study very industriously all throughout the summer, and so the word ‘summer’ has little or no meaning to us; we do, however, enjoy a six-week break at the end of the calendar year. And it was during this break that we’d find ourselves back here in West Vancouver BC, our annual reprieve from the relentless monsoon humidity and population density of southeast asia. We’d relish the winter freeze and the stoic mountains. Once we’d gotten over the jetlag, Christmasing in Vancouver was a little bit of magic.

Several things are different now. The last time I stayed in this house was over three years ago. The floors have been re-done; I’m a married woman; people have moved in and out of rooms with the ebb and flow of time, like they do in a game of Cluedo or musical chairs. My baby room—which had glow-in-the-dark fixtures lovingly stickered to the walls—is now a makeshift pantry. Some things we are learning for the first time: somehow we’ve managed to never notice the wild blackberry brambles in our own backyard, and indeed, all over the neighborhood. And then there are some things that are comfortingly constant, such as prices at safeway that will make you balk (avocados are on sale for $2.49?!), and those mountains.

Today we went to our favorite pho place and then took a drive around some scenic spots in the north shore, like horseshoe bay and caulfeild cove. Our family of four is reunited for the first time in nine months. I’m certainly in a different place, but I also feel as if I’m running on a different time.

All in all, I’m grateful (to put it mildly) that I get to be here in this season. I could be working and unable to travel. My travel authorization could have failed to arrive…indeed, that is a saga deserves its own post. But I’m here, with my family and with the mountains, about to make pajeon & bulgogi, and extremely proud to be canadian 😛

thoughts from a second-time climber

Seattle Bouldering Project

Post middle-school, my sportiness quotient plummeted from a solid 6.0 to approximately 0.5 (out of 10). In college, I made use of the free gym exactly once (not counting the time I used one of the gym lockers to stash my ‘interview outfit’ in between classes and on-campus recruiting). I tried several times to pick up running, which was especially convenient when I lived half a block from the Golden Gate Park, but it never stuck — I had migraines, my hands were freezing, my feet were sweaty, etc. So I resigned myself to a lifestyle of immobility. Two-minute walk from my home to the shuttle stop + two-minute walk from the shuttle stop to my desk = four minutes of walking a day. I exaggerate, but that is generally accurate. Yay software engineering! And as everyone knows, the more you don’t do something, the harder it is to start doing it again.

I am still not sporty or outdoorsy, but I do feel much more optimistic about exercise in general, i.e. more excited and curious than insecure and dread-full. The turning point for me was doing yoga and barre (thanks Google for the free classes). Anyway, my point is that in the past year or so, my attitude towards physical activity has changed dramatically, and I want to prioritize living a non-sedentary lifestyle as long I am able to.

This past summer Karl & I participated in a book study on Ephesians with a bunch of 10.0 sportiness folks, and on our last day of the study, they brought us outdoor climbing at Indian Rock, Berkeley. I was completely surprised by how much I enjoyed it! Adrenaline rush + shaking forearms + nature. Who knew? Unfortunately, climbing proved to be an expensive hobby, especially in the Bay Area. Most gyms have a $125/month membership fee, which is cash that I’d rather save. Oh well.

But since we’re in Seattle for a week, I decided to look up bouldering gyms. I found the Seattle Bouldering Project, a gorgeous indoor space near Little Saigon. I was fully prepared to pay all of $16 for a day pass + free shoe rentals, but they let me qualify for the student price (I told the guy I’m taking a class online, which is true. “Good enough for me,” he said. By the way, this also was apparently good enough for Spotify Premium), so I got a full day of bouldering for 12 bucks.

I went by myself, and overall it was very enjoyable and a good workout. There was a great variety of routes and difficulties, two floors of climbing walls, and a ton of fitness equipment, including an intense-looking tread-wall (a climbing wall that MOVES). This was a Wednesday morning, and the area was relatively empty, although there was some kind of elementary school camp activity going on in the kids’ area (not that I minded). They had a cute cafe (my weakness) with wifi so I called my mom while my forearms recovered. Re: climbing, it was striking how much of a difference it made when I looked up vs when I looked down. Also, repeating the mantra “keep stepping up” in my head was extremely helpful because I kept wanting to use my arms instead of my legs. The biggest obstacle to my climbing was probably not knowing at what height I could safely fall from, and also not really knowing how to fall. I erred on the side of caution, because I am risk-averse, and also because I recently caught up with a dear friend who broke her leg while falling. If I had the confidence to fall better, I think I would have been able to challenge myself more. Not that it wasn’t already challenging, but you know, growth mindset.

All in all, I wish climbing were more affordable in the east bay, because I love the intellectual component (you have to think very hard!). In the mean time, I highly recommend SBP and enthusiastically welcome any tips for climbing noobs.

granola lessons

In July, I decided to start a granola business. I’d been making granola for a few months, and have always felt strongly that granola as a food product is terribly overpriced and oversweetened. Needless to say, the entire process was far more involved, exhausting, and discouraging than I could have imagined — and I’m a pessimist to begin with. But I’m still going at it, and I thought it would be helpful for me to distill all the granola-making lessons I have learned along the way.

The whole process has felt like a (sometimes poorly-planned) science experiment — I keep a notebook where I scribble all my recipe tweaks and notes, and have a huge spreadsheet where I track ingredient costs and weights and suppliers. Karl has had to put up with our house feeling like the tropics and smelling like cookies almost every single day. The worst bit is probably all the food wastage that feels unnecessary but is a sadly necessary part of the whole process. Still, there’s something feverishly exhilarating about the whole process. I know I’m just making granola, but sometimes I feel like a mad scientist.

SO, here is my base recipe, and probably more than you ever wanted to know about the process of making granola.

rachel’s granola recipe base

makes ~8 servings, or just over 2 cups of granola

Dry ingredients

  • 150g / 1½ cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 40g / ⅓ cup oat flour (or plain flour, or more oats; flour helps with clustering)
  • ¼ tsp Morton sea salt
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 70g / ½ cup mix of chopped nuts, seeds, and unsweetened coconut flakes

Wet ingredients

  • 54g / ¼ cup olive oil
  • 60g / 3 tbsp maple syrup

Preheat oven to 300 F.

Mix the dry ingredients thoroughly in a large bowl. Combine olive oil and maple syrup well, and pour into dry ingredients. Mix, mix, mix! Make sure everything is well-coated with liquid.

Spread evenly onto a baking sheet, and pat down gently with a spatula.

Bake for 30-40 mins (depending on your oven). I recommend checking and stirring after 15 minutes; if it looks like the granola is browning rapidly, you can turn the oven down to 250 F to be safe. The granola will not be fully crisp when you take it out, but it will be once it has cooled.

the lessons i have learned

oven temperature

Most recipes recommend an oven temperature from 300 – 350 F. In my personal experience, anything over 300 F is way too hot; granola burns easily and is too crunchy/hard. I’ve found that for recipes sweetened with maple syrup and without coconut flakes, 300 F for ~40 minutes is safe. For recipes with honey (which seems to burn more easily than maple syrup) and coconut flakes (which also burn more easily than nuts, especially if they’re really thin), I prefer to go with 250 F for ~60 minutes, stirring every 20 minutes.

A huge factor in how fast your granola bakes is how thick your layer of granola ends up being on the sheet pan, and the volume of granola you are baking. The recipe amount stated above works well with a quarter sheet pan (9″ x 13″). Also, if the recipe does not contain enough liquid — say, if you decrease the sweetener or oil, or replace some with brown sugar — it will burn faster.


I started out making this granola with 80g of maple syrup, and received a lot of feedback that it was too sweet. However, when I dialed back on the syrup, I failed to adjust the amount of salt accordingly, which messed up the salt:sugar ratio — the granola was way too salty. So if you do end up increasing/decreasing the amount of syrup, I would recommend adjusting the salt level accordingly.

The level of sweetness in this recipe is just about right for me — about 5g of sugar per serving — but sometimes I do want it even less sweet. It depends what you want to eat your granola with: I typically have mine with plain, unsweetened yogurt, which is pretty tangy, but if you’re having it with milk, you might be happy with a granola that is less sweet. If you’re going to cut back on the maple syrup, I would suggest replacing it volume-wise with applesauce (which is much less sugar-dense), so that there’s still enough liquid to keep the granola tender.

mix, mix, mix

In my haste, I sometimes didn’t mix enough — the dry ingredients, the wet ingredients (you want it to emulsify as much as possible), and the dry-wet together. The worst that can happen is unpleasant clumps of overly-salty granola.

kitchen tools

Don’t underestimate the importance of the kitchen implements that you use. I’ve found that the best tool for patting and stirring granola is a thin metal spatula (something like this). For scooping baked granola into containers, I like large metal scoops. For mixing, big rubber spatulas are great.

cooling and packing

It’s really important to cool the granola *fully* before attempting to add in heat-sensitive ingredients like chocolate chips or attempting to store the granola. Good test: feel the bottom of the sheet pan — it should be room temperature. It takes about 30 minutes for me with the pan on a cooling rack. If you’re in a pinch, you can stick the whole pan in the freezer. Store in an airtight container. My preference is to keep granola refrigerated in mason jars; it seems to keep well this way for at least a month.

future research

I want to experiment with infused olive oils, because I love the flavor from citrus zest but don’t love the effort it takes to zest oranges/lemons. I think zest/powdered spices also impart a slightly powdery texture to the granola. It would also be cool to try different types of salt.

Good luck with your granola-making!

book review: the bone people

51zmdryxehlI picked up this novel from the Oakland Temescal library. I’d never heard of Keri Hulme before, but the backcover said it was a work of “unfettered wordplay and mesmerizing emotional complexity”, which sounded promising, kinda. Also, I didn’t know much about Maori language or culture, so I was curious.

This was not an easy book to read. Hulme has a Joycean way of joining words together so that they hit you with fresh intensity. Much of the dialog is not in English. The fabric of the novel is uneven and unfamiliar—but somehow brilliant, and very beautiful. The book was also difficult to read because of its pathos. Hulme writes compellingly and honestly about family relationships that are dangerously dysfunctional but still show hopeful glimpses of love and loyalty. That’s all of us, no?

I learned a lot from this book. Many thumbs up and highly recommend!