Sunday, September 28, 2014

Saturday, September 27, 2014


We just got into Naples this morning and somehow managed to fight off our jetlag long enough to explore Pompeii for a few hours. That place is huge! We ended the day with some delicious buffalo mozzarella and pasta at Inn Bufalito in Sorrento.

Now thankfully, it is finally almost bedtime - I'm exhausted!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


So after a lot of soul searching and discussion, we have decided that we want to have Jeff get tested for SCA3. This process seems to involve a ridiculous amount of waiting, which is just giving me way too much time to overthink and second guess our decision.

We waited...
  • 6 weeks to get an appointment.
  • 4 hours to complete today's appointment, including a consult with the geneticist, the doctor, and a lot of waiting around until Jeff could finally get his blood drawn.
  • 6 more weeks to get the results.
  • 12 and a half years to get to this point.
We haven't confided in any of our friends about this yet. I know they mean well but I just haven't been able to bring myself to talk to them about this. I don't know how I'll handle the questions of "when do you find out?" for weeks on end. Whatever news we get, we'll want to share that news on our own time (if at all). Also, I can already anticipate some of my well-intentioned, baby-obsessed friends who will immediately ask us "what about kids?" if they hear good news. I don't need that kind of pressure on my uterus! 

This journey can feel quite lonely at times. I can only trust God to hold our hands through all this endless waiting. I just hope we can face what's at the other end when we finally get there.

Santorini, Greece, July 2011

Monday, September 22, 2014

Food recap dessert edition: ShareTea, Village Pub, and more

As I've mentioned before, I'm a big dessert fan! I'm always trying to balance out my health goals with my sweet tooth. I don't always succeed but I am trying to get better about saving up my calories for the desserts that I find really worth it. Here are a few that fall into that category:

I'll start with the dessert that is basically my fifth food group and probably deserves a post all on its own - bubble tea! I don't call it boba because I find that disrespectful to women. Plus, I usually skip the pearls to limit my carb intake. I was ecstatic when ShareTea opened up in San Mateo last year - it's one of the few authentic Taiwanese chains in the Bay Area. My absolute favorite flavor there is the passion fruit grapefruit orange green tea. Other notable items - grapefruit green tea, black tea creama, and classic milk tea. Their drinks tend to be really sweet so I always ask for less sugar. I've had friends tease me for being like the person that thinks ordering diet coke will counteract the super sized Big Mac value meal I'm inhaling with it. *Sigh*...every little bit helps?

Village Pub
The Village Pub is a delicious Michelin-rated restaurant in Woodside. I've never had a bad meal here and I absolutely love their chocolate souffle with earl grey creme anglais. This is one of my favorite chocolate souffles of all time!

Paris Baguette
Paris Baguette has amazing chiffon cakes that are light, fluffy, and not too sweet (a big pet peeve of most Asian dessert palates!). My pick is always blueberry flavor. Here is the cake we got for Jeff's birthday this year. Don't worry it wasn't just the two of us - we shared with a group of great friends. :)

Lei Garden
Lei Garden in Cupertino is my favorite dimsum place in the South Bay these days. The usual dimsum staples are great here but it's their creative dishes that make them stand out. Below is a sesame mochi tart with a pineapple bun crust topping that's a must-have every time we come here.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

When the universe is telling you to take a day off from the gym!

I was planning to go to the 4pm yoga class - so when I pulled into the parking lot at 3:59pm, I knew I was cutting it close but figured I could make it. Unfortunately, the parking lot was completely full and I had to find some random and possibly illegal parking across the street from the gym. By the time I got to the yoga class, the room was packed and they were out of props. After 15 minutes of trying to get my yoga on in a tiny crowded corner, I gave up.

Since I was already at the gym, I figured I could get a good run in on a treadmill. I love treadmills that have TVs attached to them so that I can be distracted by how much I dislike running. Unfortunately, they didn't love me back at the gym today. I encountered 6 broken treadmills before I decided to just deal with a bouncy, fuzzy display. I managed to power through a 4 mile run before I realized that I was really hungry.

It seems like one of those days where the universe was telling me to take a day off from the gym! But I had already driven all the way there, I couldn't bring myself to drive back home without having worked up a sweat. Next time, I'm going to give myself an A for effort and then go get some bubble tea.

Stonehenge, March 2011

Mama Chen, Paris Baguette, and Tanto

Mama Chen
Mama Chen in Cupertino is one of our favorite restaurants. They have delicious Taiwanese food in a clean, spacious restaurant - a rare trifecta! This is the ultimate comfort food for us. It's pretty unhealthy though, so we try not to have it more than once a month.

Minced shrimp lettuce wraps - I love the texture and crunch that the bits of fried breadstick add to this dish.

Basil garlic fish tofu - it's a bit like fish ball texture in a rectangular shape. This dish can be a bit salty but I love it anyway. 

Rice with lard - this sounds pretty disgusting and I suppose it is when you think of how it's clogging your arteries. But the smell is so enticing and the taste is amazing.

Other notable dishes:
- Taiwanese hamburger
- stinky tofu (I hate this but Jeff loves this dish!)
- red yeast pork
- rick stick noodles

Paris Baguette
The blueberry chiffon cake at Paris Baguette is the best! When I'm not busy stuffing my face with cake, I'm exploring their other yummy treats. I love how there are so many locations so I'm never too far away from their baked goodness.

Passion fruit brioche bun - the cream is just the right balance of sweet and tart and smells just like real passion fruit.

Our friend Christina was in town on a business trip, so we took her to Tanto in Sunnyvale for Japanese izakaya style cuisine.

Yaki onigiri - comes with a delicious salmon filling!

Uni meshi - I didn't start loving uni until a few years ago, and now I'm borderline obsessed with it. 

Vanilla ice cream with mochi and soybean powder - It's as good as it looks. The portion size is very generous and easily feeds 3 people, if not more.

Other notable menu selections:
- sashimi salad
- garlic beef
- fresh tofu

Monday, September 15, 2014

Dealing with uncertainty

SCA3 imposes a lot of fear in our lives. The obvious one being that if we have children, the children may inherit SCA3. With a lot of medical intervention, we could probably mitigate this risk but there are no guarantees. Even if the children were healthy, we would wonder how many healthy years Jeff has to spend with them. Sometimes I think about this with guilt and wistful sadness, since I was the one who wasn't ready to even talk about kids when we were younger.

There are other worries that SCA3 imposes that aren't necessarily related to kids. Do we need to invest in a more handicap-friendly home? How can we continue living in the SF Bay Area if we may have to live off one income in the future? Should we move to Taiwan for the affordable home care and healthcare options? Will Taiwan's social services still be available to us by the time that we need them?

I can't blame SCA3 for the uncertainty - that's self-imposed because up until now, we have chosen not to know. But now I start to wonder if ignorance really is bliss or I'm just burying my head in the sand. In the meantime, we keep praying for His wisdom, guidance, and hope.

Moorea, November 2013

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Food recap: Burmese and Italian favorites

Rangoon Ruby
I didn't discover Burmese food until I moved to the Bay Area. Before Rangoon Ruby opened up in Palo Alto, we had to trek up to Oakland or SF and wait in long lines for Burmese food at Burma Superstar. Now we can have amazing Burmese cuisine closer to home without the wait, since they take reservations. Pictured below - the mango salad and the tea leaf salad. Other yummy dishes - rainbow salad, nan gyi dok noodles, and pumpkin stew. 

Delfina is an oldie but a goodie in San Francisco. I love their spaghetti - almost as much as I love Scarpetta's rendition of this dish. I'm a big fan of simple classics that are done really well. They usually have an amazing buttermilk panna cotta but on this day, they only had lavender panna cotta so I opted for some Bi-Rite ice cream across the street instead.

Osteria is one of my favorite Italian places in the Bay Area. The Palo Alto restaurant is unpretentious, the portions are generous, and prices are pretty fair. My favorite dish is the homemade fettucine with mushrooms and truffle oil, as pictured below. The pasta is perfectly al dente and the truffle oil makes everything taste more heavenly. I also love their calamari and I don't normally like that stuff. Their calamari comes in tender steak portions that are super delicious and completely unlike the typical fried calamari. Their hazelnut flan is pretty popular, but I normally go to Paris Baguette for dessert when I'm in Palo Alto.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Rainbow cupcakes, shaved ice, and more

Panda Dumpling
I am always on the hunt for delicious soup dumplings. Unfortunately, I didn't find them at Panda Dumpling in Redwood City. I knew something was off when I walked into Panda Dumpling on a Friday evening and saw that it was mostly empty. Worse yet, we were the only Chinese patrons. Jeff says I should have known better than to trust an Asian restaurant with "Panda" in the title. Oops.

San Tung
San Tung in San Francisco is known for their legendary dry fried chicken wings. This time, we chose to get them diced, which makes eating them so much easier. Plus, diced wings means that there's more area for batter and crispy goodness. ;)

Sno Zen
Sno Zen is tucked away in a Mountain View townhouse community by the San Antonio Cal Train station, which makes parking rather challenging. Their Mango to Tango shaved snow is super yummy, but if you've had shaved ice in Taiwan, temper your expectations. This won't compare to the deliciousness of Ice Monster.

Last week, a super sweet and talented coworker Lori made these gorgeous rainbow cupcakes for another coworker's birthday. They were almost too pretty to eat! But of course, I managed to scarf it all down anyway. Yum!

Friday, September 5, 2014

IVF, PGD...OMG so many TLAs!

Jeff and I always knew that if we were to have kids, we would do everything we could to minimize/eliminate the risk of them inheriting SCA3. I most likely won't outlive my hypothetical children and the possibility of them having this debilitating condition without anyone to take care of them just breaks my heart. From Jeff's perspective, he knows how much of a burden it can be to carry this dark cloud around and he wouldn't want to pass that on.

With that in mind, we scheduled consults with a reproductive endocrinologist (RE) and a genetic counselor earlier this year. Even though we still weren't sure if we wanted kids, we wanted to understand the options. Fertility treatments can be difficult on a woman's body and I'm not sure how much I'm willing to go through for children. Sometimes I feel like that means I don't deserve to be a mother but that's probably another conversation for another day.

The RE suggested that Jeff get tested for SCA3 because if he didn't have it, we wouldn't have to go through treatment and genetic analysis. While this is probably the most logical,straightforward option, this one has been really hard for Jeff and I to wrap our heads around. Like I explained in this post, we want to live our lives without an SCA3 diagnosis looming over our heads. But we also realize that if Jeff has the condition, he is likely to start seeing symptoms in his early 40s, based on family history. It would be one thing if we could live carefree for another 20-30 years - but based on his current age, it might just be another 7-10 years. If that's the case, we may have to get a lot more serious about future planning (with or without kids). So maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea to get tested now.

If the results came back positive for an SCA3 diagnosis, our RE said that IVF coupled with PGD (preimplantation genetic diagnosis) can virtually eliminate the risk of having children with SCA3. The first step would be to get Jeff's DNA to set up the genetic probe to test the embryos against - this can take 3-6 months. Once this step is complete, then we would start the IVF process. I would get injections to stimulate egg production for 7-12 days, during which there would be daily 30-minute appointments with the RE to monitor egg development. Once the eggs were ready, they would be combined with Jeff's sperm to create embryos. The embryos would be screened either day 3 or day 5, depending on how they develop. Later is better but not always feasible.

We asked the RE if it was possible to do blind PGD so that we wouldn't need to find out if Jeff had SCA3. She seemed to think this was a strange request and said it wouldn't make sense to do it blind. However, our genetic counselor spoke with our RE and confirmed it was doable. I'm not sure how much information they share when conducting blind PGD. Would you know how many eggs you started out with? Would you know how many embryos made it to day 3/5 for screening? All that speculation and guessing would probably drive me crazy, I'd probably just want to know. But then again, maybe not?

After all that fact finding and discovery, I became terrified of the idea of having a child. IVF is incredibly hard for a woman to endure physically and emotionally. Getting plumped up by hormone injections so that I can produce more eggs sounds like something that is done exclusively to chickens, not humans. Plus, the idea of PGD makes me a bit uncomfortable. It seems like I'm trying to play God and determine which child gets to live and which child has to live in a freezer indefinitely. To be clear, these are just my own personal feelings on this. I think women that go through this for the dear children they will have and already love so so much are incredibly courageous and brave. I just don't know if I could handle all that.

We are leaning towards Jeff getting tested at this point. But if we find out he does have SCA3, I don't know if I will have the strength to go forward with IVF and PGD. He believes that if we find out he has SCA3, we have even more reason to have a kid because we would need that hope to look forward to and keep going. On an emotional level, I know he's right but on a practical level, my head and are screaming no. I pray that we never have to make that painful choice.

Iguazu Falls, Argentina, March 2010

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

"What about kids?"

I have spent most of my adult life unenthusiastic about the idea of having children. I have complicated relationships with my divorced parents, which have made me realize that even with the best of intentions and efforts, it is incredibly difficult to maintain healthy parent-child relationships. I'm also not convinced that my life needs children to be complete or fulfilled. I am so grateful for the lives we have now, it almost feels greedy to ask for anything more.

Of course, the possibility of Jeff having SCA3 plays a large part in my reluctance to have kids. I haven't had much exposure to SCA3 - I don't get to see my mother-in-law very often since she lives in Taipei, where she has access to affordable healthcare and homecare. But I know that SCA3 is a difficult condition to handle and it eventually requires 24/7 care. I don't know if I could handle taking care of Jeff in addition to raising kids. I can't imagine trying to shoulder all those responsibilities on my own. Jeff has a pretty comprehensive uber financial model that he uses to budget and project our finances but let's face it - no amount of ninja excelling is going to bring us enough financial stability to manage all that comes with SCA3 and children.

You'll never find an ROI analysis in favor of having children. The tangible costs are always going to outweigh the tangible benefits on paper. And for a long time, that's how I saw it. I approached it logically, like the engineer I was (sort of) trained to be. But just like love, the desire to be a parent isn't a logical one. It's just something you feel - and when emotions are involved, all bets are off.

I've started to see this more in recent years, since many of my friends are now parents. No one has shown me this more than my 2 year old nephew. I've always thought he was super adorable, but it was only recently that I've really started to enjoy my interactions with him. He recognizes me and will address me as "doo doo" when prompted (he's not being disrespectful - he's trying to say auntie in Chinese!). He's affectionate and provides kisses on command. Every new thing he learns and says is the cutest, coolest thing ever. I can never resist the urge to scoop him up and shower him with kisses.

I'm still not sure if I want to have kids. But I get it now. And I know it's not a conclusion I'll come to through a cost-benefit analysis.

This is rather an obscure reference for the Taiwanese pop fans -
a hilarious picture of an adorable baby that looks just like a mini-Jay Chou

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Labor Day Weekend

The previous post was pretty heavy so I thought I'd lighten things up with some pictures from Labor Day weekend. This blog will address some serious topics but on a day-to-day basis, we're pretty silly and laidback. :)

Our church organized a group trip to Monterey this past weekend. Here's the view from the Pebble Beach Lodge. Jeff aspires to golf here one day - I'll settle for enjoying the view. Not pictured - the tandem bikes that I effortlessly rode as Jeff chugged along. Guess I'm just in better shape than him. ;)

Japanese Tea Garden
On Monday, we drove to SF to enjoy the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. It was pretty crowded but we managed to find a quiet corner for some tranquil moments. I'm not 100% sure it's worth the $8 admissions price given how small it is, but I suppose the price is on par with everything else in SF.

Sumika Grill
This was technically from the weekend before, but delicious enough to warrant a mention - a sesame panna cotta and frozen custard from Sumika Grill. They also have a delicious oyako-don (not pictured because dessert is just more fun and photogenic).

Monday, September 1, 2014

Looking back

I first learned about Jeff having a 50% chance of inheriting SCA3 (spinocerebellar ataxia type 3) from his mom when we were only juniors in college. While I wasn't sure what to make of it, it all started to feel a lot more serious when I met his mom and saw the severity of the condition for myself. Things only got more emotional and complicated when my protective family found out about the condition and expressed their concerns for me and my future if I eventually married him.

My family recommended that he get diagnosed so I could know what I was getting myself into. But through much prayer and discussion, we knew that wasn't the right decision for us then. Having a formal diagnosis could provide great news and relief. It could also end up being a death sentence because we would just be getting bad news without any way to mitigate it. There is no cure for SCA3. The only thing we could do is wait for the symptoms to start and life to be over. Some lose the will to live with this definitive dark cloud hanging over their heads, even if they still have years to live full active lives. We're not the YOLO, carpe diem types (we're too nerdy and responsible for that) but we didn't want to live in fear of what will come. And that's what a diagnosis would have done for us.

I knew I couldn't live with myself if I asked Jeff to get diagnosed before we were married. If he had gotten bad news, I don't know if I would have had the strength and maturity to stay with him. If it was good news, I think he would have seen how conditional my love was and I don't know if he would have stayed with me.

Suffice it to say, there were a lot of ups and downs in those 6 years of dating. We had a lot of honest, difficult conversations in those years. We also had a lot of love, laughter, and fun. I knew I had to marry him when I realized that I didn't want to live a life without him, in sickness or health. And isn't that what marriage is supposed to be about?

A lot of our loved ones ask about our decision not to get diagnosed. Not be all Obama about this, but I would say that our views on this continue to evolve. In the meantime, Jeff lives as healthy of a lifestyle as possible by eating right, exercising, and staying active. The other thing that we do as a couple is that we try to budget responsibly. It's definitely hard at times but we do our best to save towards retirement accounts and emergency funds. Could we save more? Of course, but we're doing okay in the meantime. If we were to save more drastically, it would probably start to impact our quality of life, which is something we know we're not okay with right now. While we both still have our youth, health, and some savings, we want to experience life, see the world, and live fully. In the meantime, we pray for the faith to live this life with love, meaning, and purpose.

Paris, August 2009