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Wow, I’ve finished my first year in graduate school. You’d think that I’d know more about brain science, but I really don’t. After all those hours spent in class and freaking out about tests and reading countless papers, I still feel so damn clueless about everything. Is it possible to feel like you’ve learned so much, and yet know so little? Yes.

I’ve spent so much time worrying whether I’d survive my first year that I haven’t had time to really breathe. But now that I’ve passed my pre-qualification exam, which basically demolished whatever illusions I had of my intellect, I’ve suddenly found myself with free time. No classes, no tests, and all this time to sit and think about my future for the next five years. So naturally, I freak out. The other day found me sitting alone in the break room trying to clear my head, catch my breathe. Because I am terrified. I’m also excited, yes. But a part of me is also beginning to see all the uncertainties in my life, my career, my faith, and my relationships. Despite how much I enjoy my work, feel secure in my faith, or cherish my relationships, there’s always a part of me that questions if I chose right. Am I doing what I should be doing? Am I where I’m supposed to be? Am I becoming who I am meant to be?

I’m turning 25 this month. When I was in high school, I didn’t think that I would have these questions when I’d be 25. I thought I would know exactly what I want and know exactly how to get there. But then again, I also thought I’d be tall, sexy, and intelligent. Haha, I guess I should be more disappointed.

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I haven’t seriously spent time in the kitchen for awhile now. Making this tart reminded me how much I miss it. Even when the flour flies all over the place, leaving streaks of white on my clothes. Even when I am left with a mountain of bowls to wash in the sink. Even when the dish doesn’t turn out the way I thought it would. I still love when everything comes together in the end. It’s those days where I bake for no reason in particular, other than because I simply want to, that I do my best and enjoy the most.

Maybe, I need to remember how to do science for no reason in particular, other than because I want to.

Berry Goat Cheese Tart from Pastry Affair

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Lately, I’ve been doubting my faith.  It’s always troubled me that, if asked point blank to defend my faith, I wouldn’t know how to.  Yea, I could say stuff about how God changed my life, lifted me from darkness, endowed me with a spirit of rebirth, etc etc.  And I bet you that 90% of the Christians you ask out there will give you some variation of this.  It would sound like snippets of Christian song lyrics that make you seem enamored with God without really justifying anything.  But it seems silly to reduce God to a feeling, doesn’t it?

When I hear words like that from my mouth, I question myself if I really “feel” God is there.  I’m not saying that these feelings can be false or that they can’t be legitimate indicators of your experience with God.  But how can you base the beliefs, which fundamentally define who you are, solely on emotions?  Because if you do, then faith is a temperamental thing; inconsistent and unreliable.  And I realize, more and more, that I need to be able to say something more concrete, something close to rational.  I need that reason to cling onto when the feelings pass away.  Otherwise, I would live my life always hiding a fear that my faith can be shattered by the next mood swing.  And the possibility that maybe, just maybe, I’ve convinced myself to love a God just like how I can convince myself to love Football if I really wanted to…by thinking about it real hard or surrounding myself with football fans or forcing myself to watch a hundred games, whatever.

The main thing is, I need something more to support my faith.  Because where I am right now is not enough.  I can do my morning and night prayers, praise God for his blessings or cry out for his grace in my affliction, and still wonder in the times between despair and joy whether there is a God who hears.  Whether the things that I claim to see him do in my life are actually his works or just the desires of a mind too afraid to admit the alternative.

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I am not denying God.  I don’t believe in him any less; if anything, these doubts mean I care about my faith so much that I will fight for it.  And because I am responsible for my faith, I cannot ignore these doubts and just hope I’ll be in a better mood tomorrow.  This is the season where I question my faith, question God so that I can understand why I believe in him.  But I would be lying if I didn’t say that I am scared of what I will find, or not find.  That is another fear, the thought that I could seek and lose heart; or seek and find myself right where I started.  And there is nothing I can do about that except to trust that God would bring me back.  He will pursue my heart even when I am too tired to pursue his.

This past Sunday, I spoke with a 70-something-year old retired youth pastor.  It was refreshing to speak with someone who was so seasoned in his faith.  In our conversation, he told me a story about his spiritual encounter with God.

I smiled and said, “A burning bush kind of encounter?”
He said yes.  And it was a story that I didn’t know whether to believe or dismiss.  But the point isn’t whether I did or did not want to believe; the question is whether I wanted it for myself.
So when he finished, I said, ruefully, “I wish I could have that too.”
“Ask him for it.”
“What if he doesn’t answer?”
“Keep asking him.  Don’t give up.”
He looked at me and I wondered if he knew that I was close to tears.

People always talk about having a relationship with God; but what does that mean, what does it look like?  What is that intimacy they talk about?  If I could have anything, it would be to know God.  I’m not talking about being able to recite all the verses in the bible.  But to know him, personally.

To know that my prayers are not one-way conversations.  To know the ways in which he speaks with me.  To know the ways in which he is undeniably, incontrovertibly true.  So that when I speak to him and when I speak of him, my words will carry the force of my conviction.  I don’t know how or when I will find that encounter, but I suspect it would start when I begin to know him.

Conquer me, overwhelm me in mind and heart.

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Sara Lee Pound Cake

I usually don’t like to eat pound cakes.  But I do, however, love the Sara Lee ones.  My brother and I used to devour those dense little cakes, fighting over who gets to scrap the remaining soft brown crust from the aluminum tin.  I tried to find a recipe that would re-create this and ended up with this one.  It’s not quite exactly a Sara Lee cake, but it’s delicious (actually, it’s quite unlike the store bought brand).  It’s the lightest, fluffiest, softest pound cake I ever made.

My first semester of grad school is drawing to a close.  It’s been great in some ways, and slightly disappointing in others.  Mostly, I wish that I had made more of an effort to talk to people in my lab rotation.  I spent more time reading papers and worrying about not getting any data when I could’ve been learning about the other projects in the lab.  But it’s no surprise that approaching people is not my strong suit; that shouldn’t be an excuse anyway.  It’s unfortunate that I realized this so late because now I just feel unsatisfied and disappointed in myself for not making the most out of this experience.  The only upside is that I’ll know to do better for my next two rotations.

Still, I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve failed in some way.  Or that I haven’t given a very good impression to my lab mates.  It doesn’t help that this was the lab that drew me to UCSF in the first place.  I guess I wanted my rotation here to be so awesome that anything less seemed like a major letdown.

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Juan and I were so impressed with the lemon curd and gingerbread pancakes from Zazie’s that we bought a pack to take home with us.  On his last day here for Thanksgiving, we used up the curd to make lemon cream tartelettes.  These mini-tarts are so much easier to share with people than a regular sized one.  They also make very addicting after-lunch and after-dinner…and maybe after-breakfast desserts.

My friend gave me three very ripe mangoes to do something with, and I figured they’d best be turned into tartelettes as well.  To make mango curd, puree two or three mangos with some sugar, lemon juice, and an egg.  Strain the curd with a sieve if you want it to be smooth.  Heat the mixture over medium heat until the sauce is somewhat thickened; then chill it in the fridge with plastic wrap touching the surface to prevent a skin from forming.

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Maybe it’s because I put in so much more effort in this second round, but I definitely prefer the mango tarts over the lemon ones.

Lemon Tartelettes from Kitchen Wench

I didn’t really have plans for Halloween weekend, but somehow ended up watching a free screening of The Shining at Park Chalet on Friday night.  Red Rum! Red Rum!  Definitely will check back to see what other movies they’ll be showing on Fridays, especially since they offer happy hour priced drinks/food from 9 PM.  $3 beer?  $3 garlic fries?

Saturday night, my friend persuaded me to join the annual Journey to the End of the Night street game.  Basically, it’s a public zombie game where “humans” must travel by foot or public transit to five checkpoints in the city and make it to the finish line without being tagged by the “zombies/chasers.”  The turnout was amazing.  When we went to register, the line almost stretched from Cupid’s Span to the Ferry Building.  Numbers were definitely in the hundreds, which meant that there was a mad rush/stampede out of the starting point.

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The checkpoints we had to reach before the finish line were spread out across the city: Pagoda Pl (near Chinatown), Fisherman’s Wharf, Fort Mason, Levi’s Plaza (on Embarcadero), Broadway Tunnel West Mini Park, and finally end at Crissy Field in the Presidio.  Fortunately, each checkpoint is located in a safezone which includes several streets.  Bus shelters and train stations were also considered safe.

I don’t think I’ve ever ridden the bus so much since I’ve been here.  I’m terrible at directions, so I was really glad that my group was very smart-phone and direction savvy.  Our strategy was to use public transit to get as close to the checkpoints as possible and sprint when necessary.  Of course, there were definitely runner enthusiasts who just sprinted the whole way.  We were not that ambitious.

The purpose of the game was to also help acquaint you with the city.  And even if you are familiar with all the places, it’s still a thrill to run through these neighborhoods at night.  I especially loved the fantastic view from Crissy Field Beach where you can see the Golden Gate Bridge shine across the waters and hints of a light fog hovering near the coastline.

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To be honest, I didn’t think we would last very long in the game.  But when we finished our fourth checkpoint, I knew we had to push on to the end!  It’s actually kind of scary walking down the streets and not knowing if there were zombies that would pop out from a corner.  We were lucky that most of the chasers that we spotted didn’t notice us back, but we did have to sprint at one point to make it to our fourth stop.  We also had a lot of help from our zombie friends.

After a good four hours, we finally made it to the finish at midnight!  Whoo!  We didn’t win anything, but I left feeling very accomplished and somewhat confident that I may just survive a zombie apocalypse.

Panna Cotta Tart with the chocolate almond graham cracker crust that I used from the last post.  I paired these with roasted grapes that I roasted with balsamic and honey.  I would use a regular tart crust instead of a crumb crust if you don’t want crumbs to float to the surface, but mine tasted just fine.

Last week was Juan’s birthday!  Even though I couldn’t celebrate with him, I figured I could still bake him a tart and eat it for him.  Since both of us love chocolate, this double chocolate tart was perfect for the occasion.  And to show my appreciation, I thought I’d write about a moment in our conversations that really inspired me.

This is a post about my weakness.  About a moment that I am not proud of, but I will write it here so that I do not forget.

You’ve always said that you see so much good in me.  The truth is that it’s so easy to put up a kind face and speak kind words and do kind acts.  Sure, some of that may genuinely come from the heart, but more often than I care to admit to, I do it because I know it’s the right thing to do.  But just when I want to pat myself on the back for being so righteous, I see that I’ve never been Good at all.

Juan, I confess that I am fickle.  In love and in life.  I find it easy to be discontent because my heart always wanders to the things that I don’t have.  My eyes see all your deficits but are blind to my own.  And I love with a selfish affection–only when I feel like it and hardly when it’s inconvenient.

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It was a snide comment.  I can blame it on stress or fatigue, but neither can really justify my words because they were said with the intent to wound.  I knew they would, so I said it: “You’re not so bright, are you?”

Yea, I knew it was wrong, but at the same time, I took in smug satisfaction knowing that I had said the thing that would cut you the most.  And the most horrible thing was that I wanted to say more; I trembled to see just how far I can push you.

I never thought that I would judge you for your educational level, socioeconomic background, professional accomplishments, financial success, or even physical appearance.  Not only because it is not fair–you were not privileged, you were not lucky, you were not raised in affluence, you were not me–but because none of these “markers of success” says anything about strength of character.  Yet, my cruel words showed that I judged you for everything that I didn’t want to.  There was something inside me that wanted to say that you were not good enough for me.

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I expected you to be angry, yell or shout, maybe even cry.  But what you said in response completely blew me away. Instead of telling me off, even though you had every right to, you told me about your moment of weakness:

There is guy in my class who obviously grew up in the ghetto.  I could tell because he walked and talked like a guy from the ghetto: uneducated and pretentious.  It made me mad to see him act like he was better than everyone else.  I thought, “I’ve done better than him even though I had grew up in the ghetto too.”  After class, I saw that he was walking and trying to impress a girl; so I got into my car and drove past him, thinking that I can use my car to show off and make him look like he was less than me.  “He has to walk home, but I don’t.”  And it suddenly struck me that I was judging him for things that he probably couldn’t control.  But even worse was that I thought I was better than him.  This is not why I was blessed with this car.  So I stopped and asked God to forgive me.

And then you said:

I want to see our relationship like I see mine with Christ.  I may not always see Him all the time, but I know there is nothing else out there that can compare to Him.

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Juan, thank you for your story.  I can’t quite articulate why it “spoke to me.”  I just know that I was struck in that moment by your gentleness, steadfastness, and grace.  I knew that what I needed in a guy wasn’t riches or prestige, but someone who walks with God.

Thank you, for grounding me in the things that matter the most.  I may have been blessed with education and opportunities, but you…you were blessed with faith.

Feliz Cumpleanos!  Treinta y dos!

Chocolate Tart from Dulce Delight (I used almonds instead of hazelnuts)

This week was the start of my rotation.  So far, I’ve been playing around with vials of fruit flies that are usually kept just beside the work desk.  Occasionally, lone flies that have escaped land on my laptop while I’m reading.  Funny to think how fruit flies are the kitchen scourge of the summer months, and here I am with my precious bottle trying to grow myself a colony.

Under the microscope, these critters are actually quite cute.  To discriminate between flies that we’ve genetically tweaked and those that are normal, we look at several physical markers.  Some will have red eyes, others white.  Curly wings or straight wings.  Long bodies or tubby bodies.  And even count the difference in the number of bristles next to the eye!  For my project, all the ones with red eyes and curly wings are expressing transgenes, or the genes that we have engineered .

To make specific mating crosses, I’ve learned how to sort out the virgin females.  We need to use virgins because the females that have already mated can store sperm inside their bodies to use overtime.  So to be sure that all the offspring are from a specific male, we separate out the virgins, which are fatter, whiter, and “shinier.”  I place these in vials with males from another strain, and after a day or two, I can see several eggs that have been deposited on the bottom.  And if I look again the next day, the whole culture is crawling with tiny little maggots that make my skin itch just by looking at them.  It’s pretty marvelous.

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Drosophila have a rich background in science.  They were first used by Seymour Benzer to study whether genes can influence behavior, a revolutionary idea at the time when most people thought that behavior was solely a product of our environment.  Using some elegantly designed tests, Benzer demonstrated that fruit flies exhibit simple and reproducible behaviors.  Phototaxis, for example, where flies are attracted to the brighter side of the test tube.  Time-keeping, or circadian rhythm, where flies emerge from their pupal cases (after metamorphosis) always at a particular time of the day.  And memory–flies can recognize an odor that had been paired with an electric shock.

For such a small critter, flies have an amazing repertoire of actions and responses to visual, gustatory, and olfactory stimuli (to say the very least).  But more importantly, Benzer demonstrated that mutants for these behaviors can be isolated and used to pinpoint specific genes that regulate these functions; thus, opening the field for the genetic dissection of behavior.

Another great advantage of the fly system is that the development of the neural system is stereotyped and uniform for every fly.  For example, in the larvae, there are four classes of sensory neurons that innervate the entire body wall.  Each class is characterized by the morphology (or appearance and shape) of the cell.  You can locate the same class of neurons in the same exact location in every single fly.  This makes it very easy to study what genes determine the development of these neurons.  For my rotation project, I will be looking at the interaction of these neurons and the surrounding glia (accessory cells that facilitate the development and function of the nervous system).

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And finally, just to geek out a little, the professor who runs my lab had actually came from the lab of Seymour Benzer during his postdoctoral training.  Which means (if I decide to stick with this fly lab) that I could be a “descendant” of Benzer!  I am a link in scientific history!

Apple and Lemon Cakes from Technicolor Kitchen

I’m in my second week of graduate school, but it feels like I’ve been here longer.  In the past two weeks, I’ve tried to cram a lot of material on Statistics, Matlab, and Action Potentials into my head.  Unfortunately, I must be doing a shoddy job because I can barely keep up with lectures.  It also doesn’t help that I feel like I’m the dumbest person in class most of the time.  Sometimes, I really just want to run and keep running and not think about anything.  Hence, I’ve been going to the gym a lot.  But as stressed as I am about understanding all these new material, it’s also pretty exciting just to be here and learn all this stuff.

A few weeks ago, I received a text message from my mentor and friend from Boston:

“I really miss your energy in the lab, no one walks past my bay with such great attitude as you! You are brilliant and beautiful, so don’t let anyone get you down!

I am sure I haven’t even touched the hardest part of graduate school yet.  And I am sure I’m going to go through a lot more moments of doubt and frustration.  But I hope I can remember this message and know that somebody else believes in me.  It means a lot.  Thanks D-!

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Two weeks ago, I bought some delicious almond butter from the farmer’s market.  I finished that jar in five days because it was just that good.  But I figured I could make my own!  It turns out that it’s incredibly easy to do, especially if you have a very efficient food processor.  Just throw two cups of almonds into the machine and let it go for about 15 minutes.  The oil from the nuts themselves will slowly turn the mixture into creamy “butter.”  It absolutely does not require additional oil.  I mixed in a few tablespoons of the lavendar honey, which I also purchased from the farmer’s market.  The result is a jar of heavenly goodness that is going to be a breakfast staple from now on.  I love eating almond butter toast in the mornings.  Who needs to buy almond butter when you can make my own?

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Sometimes, I literally just eat the butter by itself.  Spoon by spoon.

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Last weekend was hectic, but I managed to squeeze in some time to make Brigadeiros.  Or chocolate truffles.  They are probably the best and most successful thing I’ve done in the past two weeks.  I feel like I should’ve made them for a special occasion, but really, I just wanted to make SOMETHING and feel good that I’ve accomplished it.  They’re the perfect sweet snacks.  Bite-sized, chewy, and keeps well even if you let them sit on your counter top for a few days.   Since I still have another can of condensed milk left, I might use it to make another two dozen for my classmates/neighbors/whoever wants to help eat candy.

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Brigadeiros from 17 and Baking

In the past few weeks, I’ve caught up with a few college friends.  Always in our conversations, I am asked what I’ve learned in Boston during the past two years.  How has Boston changed me?  Professionally, it’s easy to say that if I hadn’t went to Boston, I would not be where I am right now.  Yes, my job had redefined my research interests and inspired me to pursue this career.  But that’s not what I think about when I wonder what Boston means to me.  No, what comes to mind is God.  I’ve realized, the most important thing I learned in Boston was how to want God more.  

When I think about how easy it has been to move to San Francisco, I cannot help but remember how horrible it was to move to Boston.  I think about the shock of seeing the filthy apartment I was supposed to live in for the first time (I didn’t have time to visit before signing the lease).  I think about walking into a different church every other week and feeling lost and disconnected.  I think about the frigid winter days spent inside my room, wishing that there was somebody I could talk to.  I think about the disappointment of how even though I had moved across the country, I was still the same person after all.

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I turned to the faith when I was in college.  I went to a wonderful church where a strong community of fellowship was always available to me.  On Sundays, the atmosphere in church is almost euphoric when everyone is jumping to Christian Rock during worship.  When you are surrounded by peers who are feverish for God, it becomes really easy to believe.  But faith should be more than following the crowd and awesome worship music.  Because if you only know God’s presence in that context, then it feels like you’re lost from God anywhere else.  

I have never wanted to see God more than when I was stripped of friends and community.  I tell people that I hated my first winter in Boston.  But it was more than just the endless snow and biting wind that made it winter; it was the absence of God.  Yet, those periods of spiritual dryness is where I learned to desire God the most.  I have never prayed so fervently, never scoured the Bible so earnestly, never sought the comfort of His presence so sincerely than in that winter of solitude.

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It would be a lie to say that it never crossed my mind to question whether my prayers were heard.  But I could not stop, because even if I lost all other reason to pray, I will pray for His sake.  I will not ask Him to save me from my problems; I will not ask him to make things work out in the end; all I will ask is for Him to walk with me, everyday, for all the days of my life.  And this is all it takes sometimes, to fight for your faith.

I see now the purpose of my time in Boston.  It has never been about boosting my career, but it was all about pursuing Christ in my life regardless of any circumstances.  Right now, I am incredibly blessed to have family and close friends living nearby.  But I don’t think I would have really appreciate what they mean to me if I had not lived in Boston.  As excited I am about starting my graduate school career, I am even  more excited about finding community here.  I don’t know whether I will find success as a scientist, but wherever life takes me, I know that all I really need, I already have.

“No place I rather be, than here in your love.”

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This past week, I visited the farmer’s market at UN plaza and indulged myself in some local products.  I sampled some homemade chocolate covered candied oranges, bought a jar of deliciously fragrant lavender honey, a jar of smooth almond butter, and finally, some caramel sauce that I intend to use over some poached pears.  I cannot wait to use these ingredients in my next baking projects.

Foodwise, I also tried the Arizmendi’s pizza, which tastes a lot like Cheeseboard, in my opinion, except Arizmendi has a better sourdough-y crust.  Finally, I also discovered the Banh Mi sandwiches from Wooly Pig cafe, which is just around the corner from my apartment.  The raw papaya and mint leaves really make the sandwich.  This will  probably be my favorite go-to lunch sandwich from now on.

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Matcha Cake Roll

I’ve been wanting to use Matcha powder in something for awhile now.  I finally found it while shopping at a Japanese supermarket.  And I was pleased to note that you can really taste the green tea flavor in this cake.  I see many more Matcha flavored baking goods in the future.

Holidays are a scary time.  I wish I could say that I enjoy seeing my family, but sometimes family can be the most people difficult people to live with.  It astonishes me that we can never make it past four days before an argument erupts–like clockwork.  In the past week alone, I have incurred the wrath of my mother, twice.  Once for “not being enthusiastic for hot pot.”  Which sounds absolutely ridiculous, but trust me when I say I’ve gotten into trouble for much more trivial things.  But this post isn’t about pointing fingers and accusing each other of irrationality.  Because at the end of the day, everyone is in the wrong.  We lose patience, we let our emotions take over, we forget to show grace to the people who we love most.

Why is it that we can be so tolerant of strangers, yet so unforgiving to our own.  My friend told me recently that it’s too easy to fall back into the same old relationships when you’re at home.  It’s really true.  No matter how much I think I’ve matured while living on my own, I always catch myself slipping back with my mom; ironically, because I try to assert my “rights as an adult.”  Can you imagine how futile it is to complain about being treated like a kid when your mom won’t take you seriously because you’re acting like a kid, but only because she was treating you like a kid to begin with?  In the end, both of us are kids.

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The problem isn’t that we’ve forgotten how to share our space because we’ve been living apart for so long; it is much deeper than that.  And you can see it in every action.  It’s why dad can’t make a joke without mom taking it as a personal attack, because she still holds him against all his past mistakes.  It’s why my brother so easily flies into a rage and drives off in the middle of the night, because he can’t stand my mom’s constant criticism which fuels his fears of worthlessness.  It’s why sometimes I find myself biting my own words and suppressing my own thoughts, because I don’t expect them to be accepted.  It happens again and again, and we will be perpetually stuck like this until we finally decide to confront our problems.

I’ve told a friend once that I’ve stopped praying for my family a long time ago.  When the house is filled with the sound of cabinets slamming and screaming matches, it’s hard to imagine that God is there.  It’s much easier to tell yourself that you don’t need family.  But maybe that is where I should start, by asking God to help me love my family.  If I truly believe that He has changed who I am, then I should believe He can change anyone.  Because who are we kidding?  If we are ever to see forgiveness and redemption in this house, it would not be because of our stubborn, thick-headed, prideful selves.  It would only be by the grace of God.

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I love my mother’s dumplings.  Hers are made to perfection.  We mix ground pork, shrimp, and chives, season with some sesame oil and a bit of coriander, and then add an egg yolk for cohesion.  We chill the filling for a few hours to bring out the flavors.  My favorite part is helping my mom wrap the dumplings, which I had always done since I was as a kid.  I would sit at the kitchen counter, leisurely folding 50-60 dumplings for dinner while she busies herself around the kitchen.  Back then, it was easy to pick out the ones that I had folded.  They were clumsily made: the corners didn’t match, the seal wasn’t tight, and the crinkles were too loose.

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It’s true that my mother and I have our differences, but we also have the best of times when we get along.  It’s easy to forget the conversations we share over dumplings, the shopping trips and restaurant expeditions. They get lost when all I can hear are her disapproval and criticism.  But even as I give into frustration, I am learning to see her side of things everyday.  To imagine what it feels like to live alone in a big house, waiting for your daughter to call each night.  To stock up on an assortment of baking supplies because you know she loves to bake. To wait for her to finish playing on the computer, so that she can finally turn her attention to you.  And most importantly, to love her so much that you can’t help worrying and nagging her about every little and big thing.

I may not understand perfectly, but I understand enough to know that she loves me.

It’s been a week since I left Boston and I already miss my ice cream runs in Cambridge.  I love Toscanini’s Grape Nut, Christina’s Khulfi, and Lizzy’s Ginger.  But my latest obsession was JP Lick’s Peach flavored ice cream, which apparently only makes an appearance during the summer.  It’s so refreshing and light that I forget it must be chock-full of calories. On any hot day, it doesn’t take much convincing to make me gravitate towards the nearest creamery.

One of the best afternoons was spent sitting at a booth in the original JP Licks store in Jamaica Plain.  Despite the long line of eager tourists and neighborhood residents waiting to get their sugar fix, we usurped the table to play an epic game of Risk that lasted four hours.  Long after we finished our cones, we were still duking it out on our board game.

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JP Lick’s peach was also the last ice cream I had in the city.  Emerging from the crammed shop with a decent sized scoop in a waffle cone, my friend and I headed towards the river by the Harvard houses.  Sticky cream was dribbling down the sides, almost faster than I can lick.  The heavy heat was bearing down on us, turning my frozen dessert into a sweet molten mess.  We finished our treats in a tranquil courtyard, the sound of leaves rustling above our heads and traces of peach lingering on my tongue.  Contentment.

Most people like to savor their ice cream; I inhale mine.  Not because I’m impatient (well, not only for that reason), but because I get stressed out when ice cream isn’t eaten before it begins to melt.  It needs to be in its pristine form!  That is why when Juan and I bought frozen yogurt two weeks ago, and he asked me not to start eating during the 5 minute drive home where we can both enjoy them together, I said, “Yeah right!” and proceeded to gulf mine down.

That is also why it was so torturous to take these pictures, because I almost could not stand to see the ice cream sitting untouched, in the heat of the kitchen.

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Juan had bought me an ice cream maker.  It only made sense that we should try to make our own peach ice cream.  Using Ben and Jerry’s recipe book, we chopped fresh peaches into large chunks, let it stew in some sugar for a few hours, and used the juices to flavor the cream.  As the machine churned the mixture, we poured in the leftover peach chunks.  The result was a quart’s worth of fabulous peach ice cream that was gone in three days.  If I had to change anything, I would cut the peaches smaller next time to avoid biting into large frozen fruit pieces.

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