All Souls, Saints, and Skulls

Our neighborhood Day of the Dead festivities, that time of the year when Death takes on a somewhat charming and whimsical character.







Plan F: Further Thoughts On Food



There is this common complaint among Korean wives. They lament the fact that their husbands and families devour meals in a fraction of the time that it took to actually prepare them. Now, I now that this is a fairly common sentiment for most people that cook, either professionally or as an amateur but it does feel especially true for Koreans because Korean food is highly labor intensive. I don’t make Korean food at home. Still, I would say on average it takes me longer to preheat the oven than for Adan to eat what comes out of it.

When we go out to eat, we usually order, get our food, and are finished before any of the tables around us. Including those groups arrived before us. We got really excited once at the Waffle House because an entire family was seated after us and got up before us. That is, until we realized that they had ordered their food to go. Is there a 12-step support group for fast eaters? And seriously, who orders waffles to go?

What constitutes healthy eating? And other random musings on food


There is this well-known weight loss advice that goes: Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.

On the weekends, Adan and I adjust that saying ever so slightly and end up eating breakfast like a king, lunch like an emperor, and dinner like a dictator.

So we eat a lot. But do we eat healthy? Well, compared to Willy Wonka and the average college student, yes. Compared to other adults of our age? Not sure how we stack up. During the week, I meal plan and stick to the million different ways to cook with chicken or prepare pasta, and usually vegetables. We don’t eat red meat often and for a few years stopped eating processed meats altogether (with the exception of bacon for obvious reasons, namely because it makes me feel like heaven is a place on earth). We don’t keep soda or chips in the house, we don’t drink juice or eat processed foods much. But dessert does make a near nightly appearance at our home.

As to eating schedules, there is one and it is not forgiving. I must always eat lunch exactly 4 and a half to 5 hours after breakfast. Between breakfast and lunch, there is a little bit more leeway but that is because I usually snack every hour on the hour. I try not to veer from the routine because hunger changes me. It takes me to dark places. Adan calls it “being a baby” (presumably because I throw fits and become highly volatile–no offense to all the even-tempered babies out there), whereas I call it “suffering from low blood pressure.”

90% of my conversations with other people revolve around food. In fact, sometimes when I feel anxious or depressed or the world we are living in makes no sense, I will start to think about what I am going to eat the next day for each meal, and for some reason that soothes me. It is a meditation of sorts.

Lame jokes are the best

There are a lot of retired Americans and Canadians living in Ajijic.

Sometimes when Adan and I go there, I will occasionally overhear a conversation in Spanish, and I catch myself thinking, “I wonder where they’re from?”

Which reminds me of a joke I once heard: What is the difference between Miami and Cancun?

In Miami, they speak Spanish.

These are a few of my favorite things: NPR podcast edition

I listen to podcasts that aren’t produced by NPR, of course. It just happens that a lot of the ones that I obsess over are NPR. I am a huge fan of virtually everything NPR produces. The only other company I can say that about is Costco. These are just two of my personal favorites:

How I Built This logoThe show synopsis describes it as “a podcast about innovators, entrepreneurs, and idealists, and the stories behind the movements they built.” I don’t secretly fantasize about starting a company or owning a small business but I love hearing other people’s stories, especially when they are talking about something they feel really passionate about or have expert knowledge in. For example, there’s an interview with the two co-founders of Reddit that I loved (and I don’t even use Reddit). The episode on Airbnb is fun and enlightening as is the one with Alli Webb, founder of Drybar. They all talk about the hard work, the sheer excruciating endless and sleepless months and years it took to get them to the “wildly successful” place they are now but they also in equal measure talk of the serendipity of being at the right place at the right time.

Rough TranslationTapping out Anna Karenina through a prison wall. American surrogates hired by Chinese women to have their babies. Affirmative action in Brazil. Noteworthy topics from an international perspective.



(images and podcasts can be found on

These are a few of my favorite things: restaurant edition

This is currently our favorite place to eat:


Absolutely everything we’ve tried in their extensive-but-not-overwhelmingly-so menu has been top notch but what I really rave about? Their onion rings. You know how normally when you bite into an onion ring it falls apart? The limp onion pulls away from the breading and it all crumbles. The onion rings here have the perfect, crisp consistency. We took Adan’s co-worker there a little while back.


His name is Olivier and he hates to be called Oliver. He will correct you if you do. Naturally, I am reminded of the little girl called Amabelle in the book Big Little Lies and how everyone kept calling her Annabelle. As someone who also has an unconventional name, I have to admire his patience and persistence. Most everyone in Mexico says my name wrong and I never correct them because it feels rude to do so. I will say that I do have one pet peeve about other people saying my name. I don’t love when people shorten my name to Choong (there are a few people that can get away with it, that have called me this for years and I don’t mind) because as I am always explaining to people: Choong Sil is not the equivalent of Mary Jane. It’s is not two separate names but both syllables make up one name.

My name means fidelity and is made up by the two Chinese characters that together have the meaning to bear much fruit, to be fruitful. When people ask me why I don’t just adopt a Mexican name to make everyone’s life easier, the main reason is that despite the complications, I like what my name stands for.

Why a clutch is the handbag equivalent of a raisin

I don’t like raisins. Why so many people insist on ruining a good carrot cake or cinnamon roll with raisins is one of life’s great mysteries.

Carrying a clutch seems like a moot point. I mean, sure they’re cute and all but say you and your husband are going to the movies. You can’t sneak in potato chips, soda, candy and two turkey subs each in a clutch. You can barely sneak in one of those minuscule packets of pretzels that they give you on airplanes. What about the hand sanitizer, aspirin, wallet, deck of cards, and book? Especially if your current read is 900-plus pages. For that, you need a manly purse (oxymoron, I know), not a delicate clutch:


If I wanted to, I could sneak a whole rotisserie chicken into the movie theater in this purse. 


(How cool is it that his middle name is Risk?)

There’s a sign that Adan and I often drive by that says: Al leer vives muchas vidas. It always makes me smile and inwardly nod in agreement because when I read a really great novel or biography, I feel as if I know that protagonists better than I know my best friends. Also, I feel like I am living in that time and place or occupation. The above novel taught me, among other things, quite a bit about the process of making fireworks and the craftsmen behind those Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve shows that I would never have known or imagined. It’s an engrossing, fun read and would make a great beach book if it weren’t so heavy.