By Assunta Ng
Northwest Asian Weekly
It’s going to be hell for the next three months, some say, as COVID-19 deaths can spike up to as many as 500,000 after the holidays.
What astounds me is that I am so used to bad news in 2020 that learning this didn’t affect me.
Disappointment, numbness, and bitterness are not normal parts of my emotions though. What is in me is a sense of overwhelming gratitude in spite of our recent challenges (which include the sudden death of a staff member’s mother and our office being flooded five days before Thanksgiving). I have evolved — with the ability to cheer myself up in a lockdown during the holidays. Being able to “be perpetually surprised” in life is a state of wellbeing, according to Deepak Chopra, author and meditation guru. It is the opposite of emotionlessness and coldness. I am constantly in awe of the things I do, see, and receive. When you receive blessings, you have to do your part to spread joy to others including strangers. Every day, I have discovered childlike bliss, and marveled at myself for being able to let go and have fun.
Tree or no tree
“Am I going to decorate my house and a Christmas tree?” asked Joan Seko, an author. “The only one that will see my decorations will be me,” she wrote.
I didn’t have a tree at home for the past three Christmases because I had no time. The pause made the process of shopping for a live tree (instead of digging up our faux tree in the storage) a novelty. I got excited. Even though my husband and I are empty nesters and the only ones to enjoy the tree, it’s important for us to maintain traditions to create a sense of normalcy.
Tree decorating was therapeutic. It brought back memories from ornaments I made and the bliss I felt when I found a cute panda in a Seattle shop ages ago. But the best part came a week later. When we decided to raise our window curtains, the tree lights were reflected on the glass, shining like stars in the universe. What a sight!
Delivering groceries to seniors has now become a need in the Chinatown-International District (CID). Many seniors don’t dare to go outside their apartment due to COVID. Several volunteers delivered groceries to 400 Chinatown residents on Dec. 20. Organized by Anna Hou, president of Seniors in Action Foundation, generous donors (including an anonymous businessman), Kin On, International Community Health Services, and volunteers were recruited, including Sr. Deputy Mayor Mike Fong, to deliver to a few CID apartment buildings.
Each bag contained Chinese sausages, cookies, sauces, and first aid kits.
Additionally, Jerry Lee and volunteering friends picked up roasted chickens and delivered them directly to ACRS, where the Washington State National Guard unloaded the vans on Dec. 18.
ACRS is delivering the chicken and other staples to 500 families. Mary Knell of Wells Fargo donated 500 lucky red paper envelopes, to go along with the chicken.
Donating gift baskets
“To get joy, you have to give joy,” said Chopra. While I am not a big fan of attending virtual fundraising events, we do our part to support our community by donating gift baskets for auctions. I have fun shopping for exotic food items for the baskets. My artistic staff helped me with wrapping and using recycled ribbons to decorate the baskets.
We are glad that we can support Asian stores and to give back simultaneously. Presently, Uwajimaya’s saki gift sets are good items for our future gift baskets.
My daughter-in-law Tracy’s baking often delights me. Once, her bun had the face of a bear.
Last week, her bread instantly made me laugh — the face of a lion made with shredded pork.
She knew that I loved this kind of bun. What surprises me is how she exceeds my expectations every time with her food presentations.
My new favorite dish during this pandemic are salmon fish heads. Did you know that they are full of secrets for beauty, with tons of collagens and calcium for your skin and bones?
Guess how much each head costs? Under $3.00.
Typical Americans throw away the heads and bones of a fish. What a mistake! They are the most delicious parts. I am often thrilled to find fresh fish heads at Asian supermarkets. How do you know it’s fresh? Its bright color and protruding, not sunken, eyes.
Usually, one salmon fish head is good enough to make soups for four people or one steamed dish. You can also deep-fry fish heads. The fish guys’ service at many Asian stores is terrific.
They would cut them up into small pieces so my husband could steam the head with scallions and ginger. We don’t have the right knife to chop bones at home. (Well, perhaps, we are also a little lazy.) In Asian cooking, steamed fish heads or fish hot pot are delicacies.
Have you noticed the stamps
During past holidays, I never bothered to look at the stamps when I received mail in December.
I often threw away the envelopes without noticing what was in front of me. This year though, I noticed the beautiful stamps, which make me smile.
The Christmas stamps are just gorgeous. Here’s a tip: take a photo of the envelopes with stamps you like during the pandemic or even save them. 2020 is a year you will never forget. And stamps are part of our history in this exceptional year.
The chocolate challenge
Health experts have long claimed that eating dark chocolate can enhance longevity. With dark chocolate, you never have to worry about gaining weight. I usually eat a lot of chocolate desserts during Christmas, dining in different places. But this year, we couldn’t go anywhere. What’s the remedy?
Last month, I posed a chocolate challenge for myself to find out which dark chocolate brand I liked best. Eating chocolate has been one of my vices since I was a teenager. I didn’t have much money to buy chocolate then. Now quality chocolate comes at a much more reasonable price. I used to consume See’s Candy, Frango, and Seattle Chocolates. Lately, I experimented with 15 brands of dark chocolates to choose one that is not as sweet. Time after time, I found myself craving, again and again, Fran’s Chocolate. Fran’s is a local company. The 72% Ecuadorian dark chocolate is just right for my taste buds, not too bitter or sugary.
I am ecstatic to have found the chocolate I love. However, being a chocolate lover, I have never refused chocolate of any kind when offered my way, no matter how sweet it is.
Assunta can be reached at email@example.com.