April Favourites: Books, Food, Shows & Apps
April is drawing to a close and I’ve been thinking about this month that’s flown by in lockdown. All of us have stayed at home for most of the month, doing our part to flatten the curve. Over the last few weeks, I’ve tried to stay positive and keep myself occupied. Other than writing, I’ve also been reading, cooking, and watching movies. So I figured I would share some of my favourites in April to give you some extra ideas on what you can do next at home.
1. Book - The Upward Spiral by Alex Korb
I recently read this e-book on Kindle and I quite liked it. This title explores the neuroscience behind depression and explains the small changes that people can make to create an ‘upward spiral’ or in other words, a ripple effect of positivity. The first half of the book discusses the different brain circuitries that can contribute to depression. It gets quite technical, as the author warns, but it's still pretty interesting.
The second half of the book focuses on the small changes that we can make to reap positive effects on our mood and mental health. Though some suggestions such as exercise and expressing gratitude have become almost common knowledge these days, the author explains in detail how each of these actions affects the brain and why they trigger positive outcomes. In addition, he also cites various studies to back it all up.
I found the chapter on improving sleep particularly useful as it provides not only information on the benefits of sleep, but also the different ways in which one can improve their sleep hygiene and quality of sleep. In this day and age, we are constantly bombarded with screens, be it our laptops, TVs, or smartphones. All these screens, bright lights, and content can be overstimulating the brain and adversely affecting sleep. It’s comforting to know that there are a few simple steps that we can take to sleep better and re-energise the body and mind.
2. Food - Kimchi
I love kimchi! Prior to this, however, I mostly ate kimchi at Korean restaurants and rarely cooked with it at home. This month, however, I finally dusted off the cans of kimchi I had stored in my pantry and decided to experiment with them. My experiments have made me fall deeper in love with kimchi.
It’s so versatile! You can use it in a stew or a stir-fry or just have it on the side as a condiment/side dish to amp up the flavour of whatever you’re eating. It’s such a flavourful ingredient with crunch, tanginess, and a wonderful kick that gives any dish you add it to an instant boost of flavour.
Other than kimchi jjigae (kimchi stew), I recently also made stir-fried chicken and kimchi. It was super easy to make and very satisfying to chow down.
Here's the recipe, do give it a try:
1/2 onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp gochujang
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 de-boned chicken legs, cut to small pieces
3-4 tbsp of kimchi
Salt to taste
1. Heat some oil in a pan.
2. Sauté the onion and garlic for 1 minute.
3. Add gochujang, chilli flakes, and soy sauce. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, and then add the chicken pieces.
4. Next, add as much or as little kimchi as you'd like. I add about 4 heaping tablespoons of kimchi here.
5. Stir everything together and cover the pan. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes.
6. Taste and add salt if needed. Finally, serve with rice.
For a vegetarian version, you can substitute the chicken for tofu and vegetables such as carrot and zucchini.
3. Show - Kim’s Convenience
I stumbled upon this show on Netflix last year and binge-watched all three seasons. Earlier this month, Netflix uploaded season 4 and I devoured that as well. This show is really funny, warm, and wholesome. It revolves around an immigrant family of Korean descent that has settled down in Canada. Appa (the dad) and umma (the mum) run a convenience store. Their kids, Janet and Jung, are first-generation Korean-Canadians who often don’t see eye to eye with their parents. There’s something very real and relatable about their family dynamics.
Jung and appa are somewhat estranged. Over the four seasons, we see the ups and downs in their relationship. On the other hand, Janet is pretty close with appa and umma. Their differing world views often lead to funny discussions and arguments. The show has heart, humour, good writing, and the actors are also well-cast, especially appa.
This show sets out to be a story about an immigrant family. But as you watch the show, season by season, you come to realise that it could very well be the story of your own family. This goes to show that some things like family values really can transcend borders, cultures, and languages. Deep down, when it comes to the things that truly matter, we’re all pretty much the same. In this time of heightened divide, I think we’re really in need of the message this show provides.
4. App - Presently
As Alex Korb writes in his book, expressing gratitude has a multitude of benefits. It can improve mood, sleep, and physical health. There are various ways to express thanks for the people, things, and opportunities we have in our lives. Through prayer, writing in a gratitude journal, or even using an app on your phone.
This app is pretty cool. It has a simple user interface and it prompts you with the question “What are you grateful for?” at a specific time of your choice every day. You then open the app and jot down what went well in your day. I prefer to do this at night, so I can reflect on my day as a whole and identify the positives within it.
This is especially useful on dull, bleak days that feel depressing as I’m forced to think of the good things that happened in my day. Even when I feel like nothing good happened that day, I try to be grateful for my family and friends who are there for me when I’m down.
The app also displays a timeline with all your entries. Reading my past entries puts a smile on my face and reminds me that I have a lot to be grateful for. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can never be sad. We all get sad sometimes and that’s ok. But we also need pick-me-ups that can help us get through those periods of sadness and this can act as one.
Thanks for reading. I hope this inspires you to try something new and stay positive during this lockdown. Do share some of your favourites from April in the comments below, I'd love to try them out. I'll see you again in May!