Aug 242019

I came pretty close to eschewing our traditional end of summer trip to Kennywood this year because we have two amusement parks we’re doing during Labor Day weekend, but the coaster enthusiast in me was all “hold up, wait a minute—you’re seriously going to wait until next year to ride the brand new Steel Curtain?”

It was less of a desire to ride it but more of not wanting to have FOMO by not riding it in its debut season.

My issue with this new ride is that it just didn’t look that great in any of the POVs I watched but mostly – it’s themed to the STEELERS. YOU KNOW HOW MUCH I HATE NOT ONLY FOOTBALL BUT THE STEELERS SPECIFICALLY.

It is literally one of the worst things about living in Pittsburgh, having to rub elbows with those insufferable Yinzer Steelers fans, do not even get me started.

Anyway, I took the day off on Tuesday, the last operating weekday of the season, but Henry was like “LOL nah I’m good.” So it was just Chooch and me, the Diabolical Duo, the Pathetic Pair, the Terrible Twosome, the…you get the idea.

The downside to this is that we didn’t have anyone to make fun of/boss around all day/take our pictures on rides/get our food/drive us there & back/hold our bags.

Henry, you useful motherfucker, you.

So,  not only is the new coaster themed after the Steelers, but there is an entire new section of the park dedicated to those meatheads, called Steelers Country. I hate this so much.

Also, the new ride is called Steel Curtain and that’s dumb. I don’t even know what that means aside from something footbally.

But I digress.

Chooch and I got to the park right before the gates opened and then had the same idea as most everyone else and ran toward the entrance of the Steel Curtain. My first thoughts:


I mean, I already knew that it was because I had seen pictures, but being inside the park and seeing it for myself was really jarring. Kennywood’s landscape as we know it is totally changed, you guys. It looks like something I would have tried to design in Roller Coaster Tycoon, but then it would end up being unrideable because I never had any idea what I was doing.

OK, let’s move on from the aesthetics, because we all know what the most important thing: is this ride good or naw? Well, it took us about 90 minutes to get on the thing, because the ride wasn’t running yet for the first 30 minutes we were waiting, and then we wanted front row, so that took a bit longer, and while we were standing in the queue for the front row was when I realized that the damn thing plays Renegade every time a train goes up the lift hill.

That has to get super old for the ride operators.

Anyway, Henry  told me later that this is because that’s the song that’s played at Steelers games and OMG IS HENRY WATCHING FOOTBALL BEHIND MY BACK!?

Even though they were running two trains, the operations were sooooo bad. The dispatching was dreadful and the next train doesn’t start up the lift hill until the previous train comes back so two train ops doesn’t make to much of a difference.

Now, I’m only partially a coaster nerd so I’m not sure if there is a legit mechanical reason why the dispatch is so abysmal, but it seems weird because this is 2019 and you would think the ride would have been designed to run more efficiently.

OK, minor gripes aside: THIS RIDE SLAPS (I watch a lot of Coaster Idiots on YouTube). My expectations were pretty low, I’m not going to lie, but mostly because I’m so jaded when it comes to the Steelers, but this ride blew me away, almost literally. I didn’t think it looked very tall until we were inching up the lift hill (and I do mean inching — that lift hill was slow AF) nearly on our backs, staring straight up into the sky. And if you’re in the right seat, you got a killer view of the river which is creepy to me but if you’re into those filthy industrial vibes of the Mon, then sit on the right side and lap it up, baby.

Nothing could have prepared me for this ride. I had watched a bunch of videos and review online but being on it, holy shit—it is way faster than it appears, the inversions (a North American record of 9!) are relentless, and there is even a pretty decent airtime hill that really surprised me and actually might be my favorite part?!

I was fucking SHOOK by the time the train entered the brake run. Chooch and I just looked at each other and yelled, “OH MY GOD” in tandem. I guess I was expecting the second half of the track to be a bit boring, kind of like one of their other coasters, Sky Rocket, which runs through all of its tricks and elements right out of the gate and then just kind of goes through the motions for the last half, like it’s taking you on a Sunday joyride.

But Steel Curtain…it’s in it to win it.

My only legit gripe, aside from the theming, is that the lift hill IS SO GODDAMN LOUD.

And the queue line is DIRECTLY BENEATH IT.

I actually had a headache by the time we made it through the line the second time (we rode in the last seat, and the rest of the train was completely filled with blue-shirted Pitt band members so we totally ruined their picture; sorry Pitt band!).

I don’t know if the general public at Kennywood know how much of a big deal this ride is worldwide, but all the coaster vlogs I watch have been FREAKING OUT about it. One of them is from the UK and actually planned a US road trip last June with the intention of coming to Kennywood and riding it, but it wasn’t open yet when he was here. Still, he LOVED Kennywood and it made me feel so proud to watch his review of it! Kennywood is such a great mid-sized park.

I think Henry was expecting a sour review from me but I was blowing up his phone with accolades and super bold statements. I mean, I was even able to overlook the FOOTBALL-SHAPED seats and safety instructions as told by Steelers announcers (I didn’t know that until I watched a YouTube review the next day and they were like, OMG SO-AND-SO ARE THE VOICES ON THE SAFETY RECORDING.

OK cool.

We also got in one last ride – AT NIGHT.


It was…a beautiful experience. We were screaming our faces off.

When we were in line for it the last time, someone behind me, “It’s about time they got a Steelers ride here.”


The historic Log Jammer had to be removed to accommodate for this right and I am still salty over that, but I can’t deny that Kennywood…scored a touchdown (UGH) with this black & gold bastard.

(The Phantom is still my favorite coaster in the park, especially for night rides.)

Aug 232019

One of the most-asked questions I got when I came back from vacation was WHAT DID YOU BUY and my answers always disappoint people because I’m not a huge shopper. Last year, I got a pair of Gentle Monsters sunglasses as my “big” purchase, but this time around, I just picked up some little things that I liked. So, here are five of those little things which will probably be super disappointing but I LIKE THESE THINGS OK. (Don’t worry, I won’t make you look at all the kpop merch I brought back, lol.)

  1. This mask from Harajuku, Japan

I collect masks, all sorts of masks, whether they’re cheapo vintage Kmart Halloween masks, masks that my kid made in school, or traditional/historical masks. I saw this one from several stalls away in Harajuku and needed it for my collection. The tag on it says “designed and sold in Japan” so that was good enough for my authenticity check!

Chooch came downstairs the other night in his “movie-watching” robe and I was inspired to do a brief photoshoot with the new mask.

HNC had his porch light on and I was like GO STAND ON HNC’S PORCH because I thought it would be cool but Chooch was like WHAT IF HE SHOOTS ME but I feel like HNC is always just buzzed enough that he would probably be like, “Oh hey stranger in a weird mask and robe standing on my porch at 10:30 at night, want a brewski?”

Chooch also peeked into Blake’s front window in hopes of scaring him but Blake just looked over and nodded. Tough crowd.

2. Holika Holika Milky Cushion

Everyone knows that k-beauty is the best beauty, and I had been putting off buying this latest Holika Holika /Peko collab online since I knew I would eventually be in Korea. The nicest salesgirl helped me find the right shade for me and even talked me into buying the same lip color she was wearing (I never thought I would be a coral-type of person until I started using Korean brand cosmetics!).

Anyway, look how cute the packaging is! A little milk carton! I almost hated to open it.

The compact is absolutely precious and the product is so wonderful and long-lasting! I only apply a very light layer to my skin because otherwise it makes me look absolutely ghostly. I also bought a bunch of Peripera lip color and that is my absolute favorite lip product ever. CVS even sells it now but it’s like double the price because America.

Anyway, also pictured is the crucifix I bought in Jeonju!


Come on, you don’t go to Korea and Japan and come home without snacks stashed in your suitcase. We brought back all kinds but my personal favorites were:

A boxed set of authentic choco pies from PNB in Jeonju. I will write more about that in my Jeonju recap but these choco pies were legit and now I’m sad that I have to settle for the Lotte choco pies we buy at the Asian markets here. NOT THE SAME.

We also brought back these banana milk Kit Kats from Japan and I’m sad that they’re all gone now. However, my favorite Kit Kats were strawberry tiramisu, which we found outside of Seoul in the small town of Ildong. They were so delicious!

I think my runner-up in the snacks category would be the yogurt almonds – no, not yogurt-coated like raisins or cranberries, but these are almonds that actually flavored after the Korean yogurt drinks. Sweet and tangy! Henry and Chooch were like, “eh…” More for me!


There was a ceramics boutique in Insadong called Gallery Dan and they were selling these adorable little Hanok; I had to snatch one up. It has a little hole in the back to stick a flower too. I love it.

The woman who sold it to me was so precious, too. Even the bag it came in was beautiful.

I love collecting little pieces like this. I still have this small vase that I bought in Pompeii when I was little that was supposedly made from volcano ash. It has a chunk taken out of it but I’ve had it since the early 90s so it’s a miracle that’s all that’s wrong with it.

(Now that I wrote that, Drew will probably knock it off the fireplace mantel this weekend.)


Ok so we brought back a nice collection of flavored soju and magkeolli but also wine from Jeonju that comes with this cool ceramic face that I think doubles as a glass (???) and a bottle of North Korean wine!

Haven’t cracked these open yet. Maybe tonight. I always feel the urge to drink after I finish up a Friday late shift.


I also got some jewelry (nothing super expensive or glitzy – just cute stuff that suits my cheap style lol) and clothes, and some other assorted souvenirs like a bunch of coffee cups from various places, but these are just some of my faves and also this was my excuse to take a break from vacation recapping because as much as I love reliving every day spent over there, it is tedious to put it into words! I haven’t even bothered editing the pictures we took with the SLR so crappy iPhone pictures will have to suffice. Wow, I’d make a GREAT travel blogger, wouldn’t I?

Except my Jeonju/Day 4 recaps at some point this weekend, though!

Aug 222019

I’m really slogging through this as fast as I can before I start forgetting the pertinents! It was all such a whirlwind and I didn’t realize just how much we actually did until I started sorting through all the pictures on my phone, like whoa.

But anyway, after an afternoon of shopping in superfluous Sinsa stores, we got back on the subway to go even deeper into Gangnam, where Coex and SMTown reside in all their Goliath glory.

We went to SMTown last year as well…but the museum portion of the experience was not yet fully constructed so of course I needed to go back because there is an entire SHINee exhibit and that alone was worth to me, especially since SHINee themselves have toured it!

Also something to note is that this time around, Henry was so much more experienced with the subway, that he got us straight to Coex with no hiccups. In fact, this time we got off at an exit that literally spilled us right out into the Coex/SMtown plaza and I asked, “Why didn’t we go this way last year?” and he just glowered at me in response.

I dunno, I guess Google maps had a big update since the last time we were there and now it actually tells you which line and exit to take. It definitely did not do that last time and Naver maps is all in Korean, so it was like taking a leap of faith every time we got on the subway.

Once we were inside SMTown, Henry very quickly bowed out of touring the actual museum portion because it cost like $15 god forbid. So Chooch and I went ahead and did this without him. We got to choose from a variety of passes to wear around our necks and we made a huge production out of this. The SHINee ones that had available were an Odd Eye design, and then ones with Onew and Key. I was sad there was no Taemin option (and I also found this kind of strange!) so I chose Key because I was really liked his solo album from earlier in the year. Chooch chose one that had a black and white picture of Red Velvet and then painstakingly filled out the back with his contact information while an SMTown employee giggled at him.

The museum is actually quite large and takes you down SM memory lane, starting with the founding of SM in 1989 by Lee Soo-man, who was also a performer himself. Before BTS broke into the western market, SM was widely considered to be the apex of the Hallyu Wave what with the crazy success and popularity of groups like TVXQ, Girl’s Generation, Super Junior, SHINee, and EXO. They figured out the formula and ran with it.

There are also displays of various outfits/costumes worn in popular music videos, like the above suits that my beloved SHINee wore in their first comeback video after the passing of Jonghyun, “Good Evening.”

Each group or artist had their own section of memorabilia, history, behind the scenes photos from videos. And there were also rooms designed to make it look like you were on the set of certain videos, with photo ops! This was our favorite part.

Of course we had to stand in a stupid line at the end and buy prints of the ones we liked best (which was all of them but Henry had joined us at this point and was like JUST PICK A FEW!!!!! as Won signs came out of his ears like smoke signals.

It was cool because the idols “interacted” with you before the pictures were taken. Chooch was really good at acting back with them but I always just stood there with one hand up and a surprised look on my stupid face. There was also an option to purchase a digital video of all of the “photo shoots” too but I didn’t want a forever-copy of myself looking like a deer in headlights.

I thought that maybe Chooch would get bored or rush me through, but he was just as interested and entertained as I was. We had fun looking for all of our favorites in the big collage of Polaroids and sending Henry photos of his Red Velvet and NCT biases (he never thanked us, by the way).

Actual wardrobe from various videos and music show performances!

Shockingly, there weren’t a ton of people there that day (that’s because they were all in the cafe and gift shop, as we’d find out later) so we really got to take our time and mess around with props and read all of the interesting descriptions.

Maybe you might be thinking, “This is so stupid, why would you want to do something like this while in Seoul” and it’s kind of similar to going to the Rock n’ Roll hall of fame in Cleveland–if you really like a certain type of music, these things aren’t stupid or a waste of time. For me, it’s like paying respect to groups that have added so much light and happiness to my life!

To Henry, it’s just another way for SM to be even more of a cash cow, and…I won’t disagree with that, lol. But even with all the hardships and scandals YG Entertainment has been going through, if they offered an experience like this, you best believe I’d be relinquishing my wallet to them.

And if a museum ever opened in England in homage to the Cure? Book me the next flight.

I love shit like this.

Sweet Jonghyun. </3

These are the clothes from the View video.

And this whole room had artifacts from the Married to the Music video which is coincidentally playing behind me as I type this!

The first time I saw this video, I fell in love with SHINee even harder and knew that stanning them was right.

It gave me so many Halloween dinner party ideas!

Some f(x) love! I don’t think they’re ever coming out of hiatus though, sadly. Krystal just recently announced that she doesn’t want to perform anymore, but I hope she at least keeps acting because she is always so good in dramas!!

We weren’t sure if people are allowed to sit in this chair, but there was no sign saying not to and no one was around to scold us, so…

Ugh, there should be a mold of Donghae’s face. He is seriously so beautiful and I should know – I stood about ten feet from him on a sidewalk in NYC last year! I honestly almost dropped to the ground in front of him, those strong visuals hit my body like a handful of muscle relaxers.

Henry texted me after an hour and was like, “…are you guys still in there?” Uh, yes. Getting our money’s worth!


Eventually, we made it to the end of the museum which, as I mentioned earlier, spit us out right into the madhouse that is the SM Cafe and Gift Shop. Hooooo boy, every fucking kpop-loving foreigner was up in that piece and there was Henry, standing alone, looking absolutely frayed and violated. It was pretty hilarious. It took us a good 30 minutes to get our pictures paid for and printed, and then Chooch wanted and EXO tumbler which required us to stand in the long cafe line, but that at least went pretty quickly.

We were really reaching the hunger boiler point by now, and planned on going to Plant, a vegan joint in Itaewon, but I was like, “WAITTTTTT, STARFIELD!!”

I was not going to be that close, twice in two visits, without finally seeing this incredible library-cum-art installation!

And it was worth it. Even if it meant braving the Saturday afternoon mall crowds in order to experience it. And wow, let me tell you—that mall was PACKED. Mall culture is alive and well in Seoul!

The amazing thing is that people really do grab a book and read here.

Then after that, I stalled my travel cohorts one more time so that I could get a quick video of the area and they wanted to kill me, but I thought that commercial playing on the giant screen was cute OK?!

Luckily, Itaewon is only a few stops away from Coex, so we got to Plant in no time and since it was only about 4:30 at this point, we managed to beat the dinner rush and got seated right away. First of all, I’m sure you’re thinking, “Who goes to Seoul and eats vegan food?!” but look: their veg scene has really been heating up over the last several years, and I have heard a lot of rave reviews about Plant, from vegans and carnivores alike.

Because it’s in Itaewon, a neighborhood in Seoul known for its large population of expats, I assumed that this place was started by one of those aforementioned expats; turns out, the owner was born in Busan, but has lived everywhere from the Ivory Coast to the US, before moving back to Korea in 2006. One of the other chefs is an American Korean, but the staff we saw that day was comprised entirely of expats – our waitress was Australian, for instance. Everyone in there was speaking English, and the whole vibe and aesthetic also reminded me so much of home that I almost forgot I was in Korea! It was pretty weird.

Henry treated himself after enduring 2 hours alone in SMTown haha.

Shit you guys, Chooch and I both had the chili burger and I’m not lying — it may have been the best homemade veggie burger of my life. The bun was incredible, the fries were so satisfying, the whole place was just so homey — I could definitely see myself easing into a Plant regular if I lived in Seoul.

(God, why don’t I live in Seoul!?!?)

Even Henry was like, “I’m comfortable enough in my meathood to admit that this is a delicious non-meat meal.”

Capped off the night with some Hongdae strolling while Chooch hung back in the room because he decided that waking up from his evening nap was not an option.

I made Henry go to his least favorite Korean store of all time, Chuu, but I sadly didn’t see anything I was interested in buying! That was a bummer, because last year I was panicked about the whole free-size thing and OMG what if nothing fit me, but then I bought a shirt from Chuu last winter and it was so comfortable and flattering, so I couldn’t wait to go back in person and buy clothes. But nothing caught my eye!

Then we had a late night convenience store run before heading back to the room and I finally got a real life Idol Sandwich! This one was from 7-Eleven I think, and it was the seasonal blueberry variety. It was SO FUCKING DELICIOUS. There is something about the bouncy, chewy bread that they use in Korea that really makes sandwiches POP. Would I go to the CoGo’s down the street from my house and buy a sandwich? FUCK NO. Would I confidently eat a sandwich from pretty much any convenience store in Korea? FUCK YEAH BRING IT. Their convenience stores are so superior to ours in America.

For instance, if something is out of date, the cashier won’t be able to ring it up! That happened to us! I couldn’t believe it.

Anyway, this concludes the three-part summary of our third day in Korea. It was definitely the first REALLY GOOD, everything feels normal again, day that we had since arriving and I was so relieved. My eye was nearly healed, the jetlag fog had finally evaporated, I felt fully functioning and oriented – from here on every day was better than the last. Hopefully I’ll be able to finish recapping it before winter, haha.

Aug 212019

So in my last post I was getting all high and mighty about how I love exploring old historical stuff but now I’m gonna be all contrary and tell you that one of my favorite things about Seoul is their weird, eclectic collection of stores masquerading as modern art installations.

One of the best areas for these quirky (and pricey) boutiques is Sinsa-dong, home of the famed Garosu-gil which is a tree-lined street full of designer $$$$ stores and fancy cafes. So like, Henry’s hell.

This is also near Gangnam, which is the majorly high-class part of Seoul, the subject of Psy’s hit crossover pop song “Gangnam Style,” and Plastic Surgery Town. Basically, we knew we were in Sinsa-dong when we got off the subway and were assayed by giant plastic surgery ads all over the station. People take “medical vacations” to Seoul, specifically to get plastic surgery and the whole time we were there, I kept examining my aging face in the mirror and musing, “Maybe I should get some work down while we’re here” and Henry’s frown (and eyeball dollar signs) pushed me onto my ass.


You can maybe see why this isn’t Mr. Plain Wal-Mart T-Shirt’s ideal spot to spend a Saturday.

Or any day.

But you really can’t go to Seoul without experiencing this area…and nearly get run over by BMWs and Porches with tinted windows along the narrow side streets. (Henry’s like, “Yeah you can.”) And I was insistent that we make it out there because the Garosu-girl Gentle Monster was currently running a pop-up cafe in collaboration with Fendi! I saw pictures on Instagram and was naturally hypnotized by the aesthetics.

Something that Henry is immune to.

On the walk there, we passed this totally cool Baskin Robbins which really rubbed the salt in the wound of the recent horrible experience I had in an AMERICAN Baskin Robbins.

Ice cream ATM, you guys. I’m looking into having one of these installed in our office at the Law Firm.

No, we didn’t get anything! We knew that we were going to be scarfing down 1000s of calories at the Gentle Monster cafe in a few minutes, so we abstained from acting like stereotypical ‘mericans just let loose in the cookie aisle of Walmart.

Even the classy Sinsa area of Seoul has these stupid claw machine arcades, ughhh. I hate them because they put Chooch in such a shitty mood! And just as expected, he was a little jerk for about an hour after not winning anything. I fear that this is the gateway to the gambling and I’m so nervous for his future.

Luckily, Gentle Monster was right around the corner and we arrived just as the cafe was opening. There was already a small group of people waiting, and I was glad that we got there early because I have heard that some of the items sell out quickly and it often is too crowded to even get a seat.

I really didn’t want to sit outside and eat melty desserts, thanks.

Chooch got the first Fendi popsicle of the day! Hilariously,  this is the only Fendi we can comfortably afford, so hopefully Chooch savored every last lick.

(He certainly didn’t let the rest of us taste it.)

His super-verbose review was that it was “good.”

The dessert display inside was gorgeous, and also kind of like a game of “which one is edible?”

We chose the set of three banana which were surprisingly soft – we were all expecting more of a hardened candy-coating, or maybe something akin to fondant, but it was a soft icing-like consistency and each was filled with a different type of mousse. They were extremely decadent and fulfilling. I wish I could have them with coffee everyday.

The moss-looking tree stump was actually a pistachio cake topped with an almond cookie and it was also WORTH IT. And we all fought over the last bits like starving birds who found a tin of severed toes in a junkyard during the apocalypse.

We got to sit in the best room of the cafe since we got there early!

Chooch was pissed because we didn’t let him have the entire cookie off the cake and I pointed out that he had just had a popsicle so then I was accused of fat-shaming him and that really set the tone but deep down I knew he was still surly about that fucking claw machine. But then he was happy because he took this tilted picture of me and I actually liked it and I am super hard to please with pictures.

My iced Americano didn’t taste any better in a cup with Fendi scrawled across it but it was still refreshing.

The main Gentle Monster showroom across the street didn’t open until noon so we went shopping at Aland. I LOVE Aland. They sell CosRX products there and I really like CosRX facial cleansers so I got one of those and also discovered the Korean clothing line Dear Stalker which I fell in love with immediately and bought one shirt even though I wanted them all.

Chooch was being a pissy brat and actually disappeared to be alone with his brooding sulkiness but then we found him (it was one of those, “Oh shit, does anyone know where Chooch is?” moments) and showed him the Wiggle Wiggle section–Wiggle Wiggle is another Korean brand and they have some of the best phone cases. One of my most recent phone cases is actually from Wiggle Wiggle, so Chooch was like, “OH GREAT MOM IS PROBABLY GOING TO GET ANOTHER PHONE CASE BECAUSE EVERYTHING IS ALWAYS FOR HER” and yeah he’s right because this was MY BIRTHDAY TRIP but anyway, I was nice and said that he could get a phone case and he was excited because they had a Corgi one so he got to add another thing to his Corgi collection that has everything but a real Corgi in it.

Admiring his new case while adjusting his attitude.

Henry’s lucky that he was off “looking for a garbage can” while also conveniently being the keeper of all of the money, because I would have thrown down some major ₩₩₩₩₩₩ at Stretch Angels. Their bags are so appealing to me! And their store gave me MUCH interior decorating inspo.

Henry really missed out on this one, that’s for sure.

But no worries, because Gentle Monster was open and ready to accept Henry’s sneers and grimaces!

I kept trying to get Henry to buy new frames but he was all, “THEN I WILL HAVE TO PAY A LOT OF MONEY FOR LENSES” and I was like, “Yes, but you will have GENTLE MONSTER frames, so…”

I thought for a second that I almost had him swayed when we found some cool black frames, but then he backed out.

And Chooch was mad because still, a year later, we wouldn’t buy him a pair of sunglasses.

One of the salespeople saw him trying to figure out how to put on this one pair, which is always a questionable thing when you have to figure out how to put on a pair of sunglasses, so she came over and happily demonstrated for him. Then she was like, “Here, you try” and this is why I love Gentle Monster – for as artsy and peacocky as their glasses are, the people who work there (and we have been to like 5 of them) are so kind and helpful! They don’t breathe down your back, they don’t try to upsell, they don’t tell you not to touch or take pictures—they encourage it! It’s just as much of a multi-media, hands-on art experience as it is a shopping trip.

This video was actually from our last day in Seoul, when we went to the Gentle Monster in Hongdae and Chooch was like, “Whoa, look at me, knowing how to open these complicated shades.”


Next up was Dr. Jart, a Korean skincare brand that also makes browsing an interactive, stimulating experience.

The outside was themed like an olympic swimming pool, complete with misters which didn’t really help on this sweltering 90 degree day, but thanks for trying, Dr. Jart!

The upper level was themed after Henry’s place of employment. Just kidding, but he does work in the warehouse of a beverage company so this definitely made him feel like home, I think. Complimentary water bottles of varying temperatures were offered and there was a young couple chilling off to the side, on a seat made of water pallets. So strange, yet cool and I wasn’t exactly sure why I was excited about this other than the fact than I was in Korea and everything there makes me happy, even a room decorated with hundreds of water bottles.

Behind those curtains were several sinks where you could wash your hands using this lovely citrus hand wash, which Chooch and I immediately imprinted on. Henry was like, “Oh for god’s sake, fine” and washed his hands too and agreed that it was a very nice cleansing experience and I’ll tell you what, Dr. Jart — great fucking marketing. Because even though we had already perused the actual shop portion of the three-level experience, we marched our asses right back down the steps and bought some of that citrus shit. We actually opted for the hand cream and Chooch also got a lip treatment because he always gets chapped lips in the winter, so…way to think ahead. And the salesgirl threw in a TON of samples for me too and I was stoked because one of the samples was the BB cream, which I love.

Also, props to Dr. Jart for being one of the only skin care shops where you can shop peacefully without a shadow. Sometimes I will leave a shop even though I originally planned on buying something, because the salespeople make me feel so pressured and self-conscious! The two people working at Dr. Jart that day just stayed behind the counter, but they did smile and say hello, so it wasn’t like a frigid, uncomfortable experience. It’s all about balance, salespeople!

This concludes the shopping portion of our Saturday in Sinsa. Next up: SMTown and Plant!

Aug 202019

I’m killing time before leaving for Kennywood and thought wow, what a great time to share some of my current favorite kpop songs with the dark abyss of the Internet.

Meanwhile, I guess Jonny Craig has done something pathetic/stupid again because my blog stats are blowing up courtesy of Google searches and all of my anti-Jonny blog posts of yore. So if you’re here because of whatever shitstorm he’s kicked up, stay awhile and check out some good music from good people who aren’t raping women, doing drugs, and scamming their fans!


The song that has been stuck in my head the most lately is definitely NCT Dream’s Boom and here I will be sharing one of their live performances because I am ob to the sessed with the choreo.

The next song is the solo debut from my Winner bias, Jinu! I just love his soft voice so much. My friend Jiyong told me that in Korea, they call him 사슴진우 because his eyes are like deer eyes. It is so true! I’ve watched this video an embarrassing amount of times since it came out last week.

Chooch and I got to see CIX when we attended the live recording of The Show in Korea and this song was on a constant loop in my head for the rest of the trip. I’ll write more about The Show soon!

And is it even summer without a Red Velvet comeback? I love this song and video! RV always delivers the eye candy & ear worms. It’s like injecting happiness straight into your brain.

Ok well now I’ve fallen into the Taemin Japan concert footage rabbit hole and I’m crying so I guess I should end this now in order to scrub the mascara from my face before leaving for Kennywood.


Aug 192019

I got to some quality weekending and it was just what I needed to come back to earth a bit, or…come back to Pittsburgh, I guess.

Sigh. Pittsburgh. #ugh

Janna came over Friday night and endured FOUR HOURS of looking at our vacation pictures projected onto the TV while Chooch and I argued over minor details and Henry served us pizza and Korean booze.

Janna is a super good sport! I know I’ve been slowly blogging about the trip but it was really fun to sit down and actually tell stories for real and not just plunk out words and wonder if anyone is reading.

I know Janna was paying attention too because she asked lots of really good questions and I felt like a PROFESSOR giving a LECTURE that people actually SIGNED UP FOR.

The next day, I met up with Jiyong for the first time since before I left! We went to Bureau Coffee in E. liberty and I gotta give them a shoutout for not charging extra for milk alternatives. They’re the real MVP. However, their seating is mostly in shared space format and that’s really uncomfortable when you’re there to actually chat with a pal and not stare silently at a laptop.

Anyway, it was fun to talk to Jiyong about the trip and she seemed surprise at how many different places we managed to cram in, and also we gossiped about Korean news and gushed about the possibility that Heechul and Momo are dating and talked about how much we like Jinu’s solo debut.

I’ve never been the type of person who needs to have friends that are exactly like me but it’s really been nice having a pal here in the Burgh who I can talk to about my niche Korean interests! Usually after we hang out, I spend the next two days excitedly saying, “Oh yeah and Jiyong said…” to Henry.

Later that night, Henry and I drank some of our souvenirs while planning our next (hypothetical but hopeful) trip which is shockingly not to Korea this time but don’t worry I WILL RETURN TO THE MOTHER HANGUK the year after!

You know there was some Taemin action in there at some point too.

Sunday the 18th was G-Dragon’s birthday! So I busted out the GD socks I bought in Myeongdong on this past trip. MY KING!!

After Chooch’s piano lesson on Sunday, we headed on up to Butler where we met Tommy & Jessy for lunch at Reichholds.

Henry thought this book said “Born to Be White” and I mean, we were in the right (white?) area for that to be accurate. #yikes

Oh man, the service was sooooo slow and there seemed to be turmoil left and right but I had the roasted tomato omelette special and it was one of the best omelettes I’ve ever had, possibly because of that pesto smear on top.

Turns out that Tommy & Jessy are regulars here and the entire waitstaff knows them which made for a wildly entertaining experience and I felt like I was sitting with the In Crowd in the middle school cafeteria, you know?

Our waitress asked Jessy what my name was—twice–because Jessy mentioned at the beginning of the meal that this was my bday lunch, so the next thing I knew, everything got quiet and someone turned on some creepy old-fashioned recording of the Happy Birthday Song and then a birthday pancake was placed before me.

It was so sweet! I mean, the pancake was sweet but the sentiment too!

But of course Tommy couldn’t let Chooch and me have a peaceful meal. He antagonized Chooch from across the table the entire afternoon until Chooch was like THATS IT and made Henry switch seats so that he could sit across from Tommy and kick him. Meanwhile, Tommy overheard me telling Jessy that I met G-Dragon’s dad so he kept telling all the waitresses SHE HUNG OUT WITH GFUNK’S DAD and I was like ITS GDRAGON, STFU!


We were the last people to leave after the joint closed at 2pm and even though the service was a hot mess, the waitresses were so freaking cool and obviously the company was the best (the Tommy-half of said company is questionable though) and the food was legit. (Chooch ate his strawberry crepes with the verve of a child who’s only fed lima beans at home.)

Tommy and Chooch had a parking lot brawl and then Chooch proposed that Tommy have his picture taken standing underneath the giant roof rooster.

“A dick standing under a cock,” he blurted out and then ran away before Tommy could retaliate with violence. It was an impeccable burn on Chooch’s part!

What a satisfying weekend!

Aug 182019

By the third full day in Korea, my eye was feeling better (still only wore contact though per the advice of Dr. Henry who apparently earned his optometry degree by mailing in $1 to an address on the back of a matchbook) and the jetlag fog had mostly dissipated, so this was the first full day where I felt like myself and I had to stop myself from running through the subway station, screaming, “ERIN’S BACK, BITCHES!”

Plus, Chooch and I were being rowdy in the hotel hallway that morning so Henry hissed, “shut the fuck up” but he did so under his breath because he’s afraid of us.

Yes, things were definitely feeling normal! We commemorated the start of a great day by taking an #OOTD selfie in a subway station mirror, a la Joan Kim.

Anyway, this was us on our way to this cool urban walkway called Seoullo 7017. It’s a former highway overpass that was recently repurposed into a skywalk, full of plants and brightly-painted pianos, with plenty of seating which likely makes it a great spot to escape the daily office grind.

Chooch and I adopted this dumb pose for nearly every picture and it made us crack up but Henry was just like, “You guys look dumb.”

We got to the walkway pretty early on Saturday morning, so the streets were still relatively quiet. If there’s one thing about Seoul, it’s that everything stays open extremely late, but nothing opens early, man. Not even cafes.

Also? THIS IS THE FIRST BLUE SKY OF THE TRIP! I was like, “Something looks diffe—-OMG THE SKY IS BLUE! THE SKY IS FUCKING BLUE!” From this day on, the weather would be mostly clear, with sporadic showers here and there so I was relieved. I really thought a fucking monsoon was going to come in and flood out our vacation.

Henry was trying to enjoy all the pretty plants but Chooch and I were giddy AF and kept making Cheetah Girl jokes which never sits well with Henry, and then there would be the occasional person passing by on a morning walk, and they would look at us like we had escaped a mental institution.

ALWAYS stop & smell the Korean flowers, guys.

You can see how the rain clouds were still chilling in the background; they stuck around just long enough to make us wonder if we were about to regret not bringing our umbrellas but it never did rain that day, just once earlier in the morning, before we even left the room.

That glass building to the left of the green-dome is Seoul Station, a major subway station but also the KTX and AREX train terminals. There’s a Lotte Mart there, Lotte Outlets, plus a ton of restaurants, cafes, and other shops. We spent a shit-ton of time there last year, spinning around in circles, being thoroughly lost, but Henry and Chooch are like pub-trans pros at this point and we just breezed right through every time we had to go there on this trip. It was cool seeing it from this perspective though, considering we’re always inside and underneath it.

Lush urban vegetation! Pittsburgh has Point Park downtown, but I do wish there were more green areas to visit while I’m on my lunch break walks. Pavement-pounding gets pretty old after a while.

Meanwhile, Henry took a timelapse of traffic on the other side of one of the railings and I don’t know it was so funny to us, but it was and Henry was like, “YOU KNOW WHAT, GO FUCK YOURSELVES.”

Then, I saw in the near distance one of the numerous “Gates” around Seoul, so I was like, “CAN WE WALK THERE” and Henry was like, “LET ME LOOK AT MY MAP” and then somehow, we stumbled upon one of the the secret alley entrances to Namdaemun Market and I was SO CONFUSED, because I am directionally challenged and even here at home, it’s fucking WILD to me when I look at a map and realize where certain neighborhoods are in relation to Pittsburgh because I can’t grasp the concept of NORTH EAST SOUTH WEST. One time recently, Nate was asking me which direction we were flying out of the US to Korea, and I had to stand next to him so we were facing the same direction so that I could wave a hand in front of us and say, “OK so if this *wipes air with hand*is America, we fly out this way *points to the left*.”

“Oh OK, so….west,” Nate said in his best effort to eradicate any ounce of condescension from his tone.

In most US cities, you’d generally want to avoid alleys of any kind, but in Korea, this is where you can find hidden gems, like tucked-away mandu guk (dumpling soup) restaurants or a food stall housing a breakfast sandwich-slinging ahjumma.

Chooch got an egg & cheese toast and as much as I wanted one too, I held off because I knew more options awaited.

Namdaemun is also a good place to get some cheap threads & good Korean donuts, yo. I wish Pittsburgh alleys had less piss and the possibility of rape, more egg toast and knock-off designer clothes stands.

But first we had to go and find that gate so we cut through the main roads of Namdaemun to get there. (Again, mindblown that we were where we were. I should study a map more often, I think.)

But FIRST first Henry had to embarrass us at 7-Eleven in front of the cute cashier because we kept taking our stuff up to pay and Henry would be like ME NOT READY, ROARRRRR and we would have to take our stuff off the counter but then finally Henry put his shit on the counter so we were like ok cool it’s time to pay and we put our stuffs down too (they sell SM idol group jellies there so I got EXO and NCT127 for Veronica!) but then Henry just kept standing there looking at his phone and Chooch and I were like tugging on our collars, asking each other with our eyes, “What is he doing???” And the cashier kept looking at us and we were all smiling at each other nervously, then finally Henry thrust his phone at the young man and barked DO YOU HAVE THIS and apparently it was a picture of Ibuprofen and the guy was like I don’t know what that is and so Henry was like FOR A HEADACHE?! and the guy was like OH! Here, this will work and gave Henry a box of something else but it ended up being children’s Tylenol and THAT IS NOT GOING TO WORK, Henry growled to us outside of the store as Chooch and I were saying in tandem, “you are so embarrassing!” Ugh.

We reached Sungnyemun Gate, which was free to explore. It’s billed as the first National Treasure, so how could we not give it some tourist love? This is one of the eight gates of the Fortress Wall that once surrounded Seoul during the Joseon Dynasty. It was built in 1396!

1396!! It’s super hard to wrap my head around things like this. It was rebuilt in 1447, survived some damage from the Korean war which required repairs, before burning to the ground by arson in 2008. It was rebuilt in 2013 — as of this time, it was the most expensive restoration project South Korea has ever seen. There are still some smoke-stained stones.

I love resting my eyeballs on sights like these and imaging what it must have been like when it was in use.

You just, you know, don’t see things like this in Pittsburgh and gives you a brand new perspective on a life and time where a city needed to be walled-inn to protect itself. And I love that these historical bad boys are just right smack in the middle of modern, high-tech Seoul.

The colors on that ceiling though!

Imagining trying to break down that door. Maybe my ex-neighbor “Ned” the Kingpin should have replaced his door with one like this,

Honestly, you walk through the doors of the gate and you’re back in the 21st century.

Thoroughly history-fed, it was time to revisit Namdaemun for some additional feeding (this time of the mandu variety) before leaving behind all the palaces and gates for super-new Seoul a/k/a Gangnam. Stay tuned, or turn the channel if you’ve had enough of Korea; break my heart – it’s fine!

Aug 172019

The most cliche, basic thing to say in summer is WHERE HAS THE SUMMER GONE but like, maybe if summer would slow it’s fucking roll we wouldn’t have to be so damn trite.

August is halfway over, school starts in a little over a week, LIKE SAND THRU THE HOURGLASS…ETC ETC.

There are many pros and cons to working from home, but in the summertime, I am so thankful for the privilege to work from home on my late shift days because I get to enjoy being outside in the mornings, walking around the neighborhood, having my weekly breakfast seshes with Chooch…I really, really love these summer days!

And August in particular, for some reason, really makes me happy. There’s something about the way the air feels in August that reminds me of swimming at my Pappap’s pool and lazing around with no worries and nowhere to be. So I’m walking home from the post office the other day, appreciating this summer month, when tears started springing from my eyeballs?! That’s where I am in life right now. Just all emotional and grateful and hyper-aware of it all, man.

For this week’s Summer Breakfast Club, we went to the Dor-Stop ONLY because we’ve hit the bottom of the barrel for local AM eateries.

The Dor-Stop is like, ultra popular around these parts because fucking Guy Fieri ate there for his dumpster dives show, or whatever it was called, and gave it his greasy seal of approval and they’ve been riding that wave of C-list celebrity fame ever since.

I have lived within walking distance of this joint since 1999 and have only eaten there less than 8 times so that should tell you something. Every experience I’ve had there has been either SHITTY (hair in my food, abysmal service) or just completely unforgettable at best.

This time, we had an OK waitress and OK food but the people seated behind us were SO FUCKING DISGUSTING. The lady was sitting on the other side of my booth and kept body-slamming herself into the back of it to the point where I thought I was mistaken and there were actually children sitting behind me. Then her man-thing told her a joke and she was straight up bucking in her seat and stamping her feet on the floor and then he started blowing his nose in a fashion that would make a trucker disgusted and then he BURPED IN BETWEEN.

So gross.

But Chooch liked his raspberry French toast (one of their specialities and I will admit that it’s good but the bread is pretty puny) and we had good talks so I guess that’s all that matters, right.

In other Chooch news, he decided to start a book club at the teen center and the lady in charge gave him the green light so he made this flyer and I didn’t even hover and try to add Erin-flourishes, I AM SO PROUD OF ME!

Also in Chooch/Teen Center news, he was made an administrator which basically means he gets to NARC on other kids so this right up his alley.

Ok well I’m going to go now because Chooch and Henry are outside in a thunderstorm fixing Chooch’s bike which means they’re having some pass-the-popcorn levels of bickering and I need to pull my seat closer. Byeeeee.

Aug 172019

Our plan after a long day in Incheon was to go back to the room, rest a bit, look up a spell to cure my eye, procure a virgin and a rib from a centaur to complete said spell, and then head on out to Myeongdong for some street food and night shopping.

I LOVE Myeongdong! It’s street after street of beauty shops and boutiques and kpop merch and loud music and laughter and street food, and and and…it’s just a must-visit on any trip to Seoul. If you’re looking to just shop, then probably stick with going there during the day. But I like being there at night because it’s more of a party, night-market atmosphere and not as many food carts are out during the day.

And really, isn’t it all about the food?!

I didn’t think twice about throwing down some Won on a gyeran bbang (egg bread). This little loaf looks like it would be savory, but it is surprisingly sweet, the kind of sweetness you’d get from French toast, with a delicious egg baked right into the center, and topped with a sprinkling of sunflower seeds.


These things are so good.

Maybe the new Pie Party should be Korean Street Food Fest.

Henry doesn’t hate Myeongdong or anything, but he does get nervous because people will stand outside of various skincare shops, luring potential customers inside with the prospect of free sheet masks or other assorted “1+1” deals. And I’m a sucker. I’ll go in and look at the lip gloss and next thing I know, I’m walking out with $100 worth of premium snail serum for my face and this is not an exaggeration, this actually happened last year at The Saem in Busan. BUT THE LADY WAS SO CONVINCING and that shit actually was amazing on my skin, I’m not even going to lie. I still have some left because it was so expensive that I use it so sparingly.

But I did good on this night! I avoided all those shops and we just focused on socks (there are sooooo many sock shops in Korea but especially Myeongdong and they are fucking CUTE AND WELL-MADE – most shops have 11 for $10 deals. Chooch and I stocked the fuck up…or should I say, SOCKED the fuck up?


They also have kid socks so we were nice and got some for Calvin too.

One of my early observations from this trip is that, in spite of what all the Kpop news articles and social media would have us believe, Bigbang doesn’t seem to have actually been canceled over there. I still heard a good bit of it being played in shops and there was still just as much Bigbang merch as any other group, even Seungri specifically. So I just don’t know. Is it propaganda, do the average Koreans condemn Seungri for alleged crimes he hasn’t actually been tried for? Because if I wanted to buy a pair of Seungri socks, or a Seungri keychain, I could have easily done so at a variety of shops. So that was reassuring!

I also thought it was cool how familiar it felt being back in Myeongdong. How did Seoul so quickly start to feel like my second home!? It really must be hard-packed into my heart.

Before the trip, I was telling my co-worker Margie that we were staying in my favorite neighborhood of Hongdae and she was like, “How do you know all the different neighborhoods?” and I was like, “BECAUSE THIS IS MY LIFE, MARGIE.” But honestly, even before our first trip there, I had spent a year and a half watching vlog after vlog on YouTube of people living in Seoul and you just start to understand and recognize different areas, just like you would in your own city.

One of my favorite stores is Stylenanda, even though I never buy anything there. They sell makeup and clothes, but their stores are SO PRETTY. The one in Myeongdong specifically is themed as a hotel, and it’s like 6 floors of makeup, clothing, accessories, and a cafe themed as a rooftop pool.

Henry hates it there.

This tub is iconic.

I love shops like this because they make Henry uncomfortable and it’s so much fun for me to force him to pose for pretty princess pictures.

This bed and table are suspended over the entryway (lobby) of the store. It makes me nervous.

Stylenanda Pink Cafe.

Also in Myeongdong is an accessories boutique called My Poetry. It’s a Korean brand with multiple locations around the country, but it’s so intimately-themed that you would think it was an independent shop. And the earrings! They are so beautiful that I poured one out in an alley later that night for my closed-up holes. I really need to get my ears repierced and this shop maybe was the boot in the ass that I needed.

I did get a ring for myself there but holy shit I was really coveting some of those delicate earrings.

Also, I love that this brand’s tagline is “I still hide you in my poetry.”

Chooch got one of these s’mores-esque things to cap off the night. It had a chunk of ice cream in the middle and he of course did not let us try it.

On the subway back to Hongdae, I sat in between Chooch and some sleeping, possibly-drunk, older man who kept getting dangerously close to slumping over on me. The guy on the other side of him kept shouldering him back upright, but then at one of the subway stops, Sleeping Guy had enough momentum to fall all the way into my side. So then it was basically me and the guy on the other side volleying Sleeping Guy back and forth like a bizarre game of Subway Ping Pong, until I finally got up and stood because it was too much responsibility for me to bear.

Ugh, I miss the subway so much. :( And Myeongdong. And gyeran bbang. And sock-shopping. And Korea all around.

Aug 152019

I didn’t know about Wolmi Island during our first visit to Korea, or I would have dragged my fam there in an instant! It’s basically a BOARDWALK, you guys. WITH RIDES. It’s also a seafood lover’s Mecca, if that matters to you.

The only way to reach Wolmi from Chinatown in Incheon was either to walk (which Henry said would only be “like 20 minutes”), take a taxi, or take a bus. Now for some reason, I am still terrified of public buses. I don’t know why! Ok I do know why–it’s because I’m always worried my transit card won’t work when I tap it and unlike on the subway, you’re face to face with the bus driver and everyone on the bus is getting all huffy and surly because you’re holding everything up.

I write this like it’s from personal experience and it is NOT. I have only ridden the bus in Pittsburgh once in my whole life and that was in 1998 waaaay before the days of transit cards, and the times we rode a bus last year in Busan, we had zero problemo.

So Henry did his thing, found out which bus would take us there (um, nearly all of them) and we waited at the stop right across from Chinatown, then got on the EMPTY BUS with some old man and that was it! Success!

Also, after riding there on a bus, I can now tell you that it would have been one fucking bitch of a walk there through mostly industrial areas, so…dodged that bullet.

The bus ride was only about 10 minutes and not scary at all. It is still highly unlikely that I will ever willingly board a PAT bus in Pittsburgh though.

So here’s a nugget of history about Wolmi Island, which I only recently learned: “On September 10, 1950, the U.S. Army began five days of bombing Wolmido Island, which contained North Korean Army soldiers. Several hundred civilians were killed in the dropping of 93 napalm bombs. The battle was inspiration for the North Korean Propaganda Film Wolmi Island produced in 1982.”

Yikes. Thinking about that, and knowing I walked all over this place is goosebump-inducing.

And yet, now it’s a big tourist spot full of restaurants, bars, and amusement parks!

It had stopped raining by the time we made it to Wolmi, but the gray skies kept most people away. Wolmi Theme Park was open, and the ride operators were busily squeegee’ing the rides of puddles.

But were the only people strolling around, so it gave it a mildly sinister feel. Later though, some people were riding the pirate ship and hearing their screams made it less creepy, somehow.

The famous Tagada! Or, also known as Disco Pang Pang. So this ride is popular in various Asian countries but it’s not something you would ever see in the States, what with, you know, safety regulations and whatnot. But the ride operator essentially tries to catapult the riders off the ride. And there are no seatbelts or anything! So you have to grab on to the rails with all your might and give it to God, I guess.

(No one actually gets flung off but I have seen videos of people sliding around all over the place!)

Taemin and Key from SHINee were actually on  this ride during an episode of “We Got Married”! It’s the very beginning of the video, so just watch it:

I mean…I was attacked by our family’s pet rabbit Rudy when I was 15 so just glancing at this ride was enough for me.

Across from the entrance to Wolmi Theme Park is the Wolmido Lighthouse.

Yellow Sea.

It didn’t even feel like we were in Korea while we were here. It could have been some small town on the Jersey Shore, to be honest. It was nice to have a slower pace and hear all the seagulls squawking as people fed them squid snacks. Chooch and I got drinks from a little cafe run by the most adorable and pleasant older couple (Chooch was on a major bubble tea spree, and I mostly opted for iced Americanos everywhere we went).

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“Fun time,” as Chooch would call it.

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We stumbled upon another little park that had not one but THREE pirate ships. They love their pirate ships in Korea!

I can definitely imagine this being a major hotspot during nicer days and it probably is a madhouse during summer nights.

Before we headed back to Seoul, I was adamant that we ride the ferris wheel, which cost us like $18 I think but it was worth it not because yay, family time, but because TAEMIN RODE THIS FERRIS WHEEL.

Also, Henry smiled once.

Chooch was tired of hearing me complain about my eye woes.

Eye drama and intermittent rain showers aside, this day trip was actually pretty great. However, the highlight for me when we were sitting on the subway on the way back to Seoul and Chooch created an Instagram account for Cheetah Girl – the imaginary stripper girlfriend we invented for Henry – and I was fucking laughing so hard that I thought my bum eye was going to shoot out, and Henry was like, “WHAT ARE YOU TWO DOING” so Cheetah Girl sent him a friend request BUT HE DENIED IT.

Aug 142019

Hello. This is still the second day. My recaps are tedious and ridiculous.

Every time I would start to get sad that it was raining, I would remind myself that it was STILL BETTER THAN BEING IN PITTSBURGH. Honestly, when I started planning this trip, I knew it was Korea’s rain season but I was adamant on being here for my birthday – who knew my birthday was in Asia’s monsoon season? Coincidentally, all the rain really helped with the air quality and there were no yellow dust advisories the whole time we were there, as opposed to our last visit in spring when everyone was wearing medical masks the whole time.

Give and take, I guess.

Anyway, it was fine that it started to rain because we were ready to get Our jjajangmyeon on anyway. I guess now is where I tell you that jjajangmyeon is a noodle dish with a really thick and rich black bean sauce. It’s served with danmuji (pickled yellow radish) and lemme tell you what, it is such a satisfying dish.

Interestingly, it’s a Koreanized version of a Chinese dish, much like how America has its own versions of Chinese food that is most likely not served in China. Incheon’s Chinatown is allegedly the birthplace of this dish (there’s even a museum there for it) so naturally, this is what we had to have for lunch!

There are numerous places that serve this, clearly, but we chose a place that one of our favorite Korean YouTubers recommended, and it has the “a k-drama was filmed here” claim to fame. When we walked in, there were several tables occupied by old men, which is always a good sign.

I think our waitress freaking hated us though. She just gave off “trespassers!” vibes even though this was like a major tourist area.

But we still happily ate our jjajangmyeon. (Chooch did too even though he was being a bitch about it when we were looking at the menu—he and I both have massive food/mood swings.)

Actually, we ate so happily that I failed to even take a picture of the jjajangmyeon after all this hype about the jjajangmyeon but honestly, it’s not a very attractive dish. It’s literally a bowl of noodles with a wet crowd of dark gravy-like gloop.

Fun fact: there is a holiday in Korea called Black Day where single people gather to eat jjajangmyeon in an effort to dull the pain of not having a Valentine, I guess.

I got this picture from the Internet but you can just pretend like it was my bowl before I bibim’d that shit up into a chunky nest of black bean ooze.

(OMG as I’m writing this a video about kimchi jjigae is playing on my TV in the background and I just realized that I never ate any of that this time around and it’s one of my favorite Korean dishes, ugh guess I have to GO BACK AGAIN.)

Our lunch was so delicious but I definitely had regertz afterward because there was this one restaurant we walked by earlier, and also after lunch, where an older woman was standing in the doorway cheerfully saying hello to passersby in an attempt to lure them inside and I wished so deeply that we had chosen her noodle house instead.

Le sigh.

Look at the little chairs on the windowsill!

We strolled around some other areas of Chinatown after lunch. I ended up not gaining any weight the entire time we were away even though I ate so much and it’s definitely because we did so much walking. It’s the best way to digest, you guys.

I don’t know if it really is or not.

I was scared walking up these steps because they were so wet and shiny.

But there was a reward at the top! Look at how beautiful that is. There were steps on the other side of that Chinese gate, which led us into a forest/park-type area which also was home to a Korea-US Centennial Monument, so that was pretty cool.

There was also a General MacArthur statue, which Henry correctly guessed from many yards away because he knows more history stuffs than me but also he probably saw this on the map that we were looking at next to the entrance of Chinatown.

Chooch and that damn umbrella that I had to carry through four airports on the way home, ugh.

That MacArthur guy. Maybe I should look him up sometime.


Oh shit you guys, we got some Mooncakes from this vendor that I read can have lines up to 90 minutes long so it was another reminder to thank the rain for keeping away the crowds. Mine had a green tea filling, Chooch’s was super-messy chocolate, and of course Henry got red bean. These were way better than the buns we had earlier that day, and also fresher. Plus, the vendor was so much nicer and personable and happy to sell us his Mooncakes.

I dunno, these alone might have been worth the excursion away from Seoul!

Before we could say goodbye to Chinatown, Chooch had to waste more of our precious coins in the claw machine arcade.

I think that I will definitely visit C-town again if I ever return to Korea. There are so many different things to eat there and my stomach is just not as big as it feels when I’m watching food vlogs.

Before we left Incheon, we had more place to go: Wolmi Island. SEE YOU IN THE NEXT POST!

Aug 132019

Incheon is a city about an hour west of Seoul, and also the location of the international airport. But it’s also home to Korea’s largest (and only official) Chinatown. Why would you want to go to a Chinatown in Korea, you may be asking if you’re even reading this but you probably aren’t whoever YOU ARE.

Anyway, I wanted to go specifically because I heard through the grapevine also known as YouTube that this is like the premiere place to get ye a bowl of that good-good jjajangmyeon.

WHAT IS JJAJANGMYEON you might be asking and look maybe it’s time that you utilize that Siri or Google bullshit. And this is where Henry reminds me that I have chased all my blog readers away with  my poor attitude, so fine I’ll tell you what jjajangmyeon is….in another post. Because this post is about killing time before the jjajangmyeon.

It took about 2 hours to reach Incheon’s Chinatown by subway (several transfers were necessary and then there was that whole bit where Henry left me on a train platform) but overall, it was relatively easy to figure out how to get there (and by that I mean I let Henry and Chooch look at the maps and I followed them blindly with outstretched hands while wobbling to and fro with big dumb glasses on my big dumb face).

The gate is pretty much right outside the station (which I also believe was the last stop): so um, you really can’t miss it. Even I could see it!

The downside to this excursion was that it was raining off and on. Plus, we had arrived just a bit too early so nothing was really open yet, but we did find a nice little garden area to take refuge and get our bearings.

You can tell even from far away that my eye was jacked!

A tour group arrived as we were chilling here and at the same time, it stopped raining. Suddenly, everything came to life in Chinatown!

It was so gloomy all day, but I liked the vibe. It matched my eye-pain-inducing CLOUD ABOVE MY HEAD.

We did some lunch pre-gaming by swiping some Hwadok Mandu. The vendor seemed impressed when I ordered mine and said “hobak” instead of “pumpkin.” I KNOW MY FOOD WORDS, OK. Henry got red bean and I already forget which one Chooch got. Apparently, the lines for this vendor get quite long so I was no longer that mad about that rain. I expect things to be crowded when I’m traveling, but we had this whole little town almost entirely to ourselves and it was bizarre yet wonderful. Especially when we got to Fairytale Village!

If there is one thing Korea loves, it’s murals and cartoon kitsch. There was no rhyme or reason for this section of Chinatown, and it actually felt pretty out of place, but goddamn if we didn’t peruse every last street and alley and take those photo spots up on their offers!

At first, Chooch was kind of like, “This is dumb…” but then he kept finding random dog murals.

The freshly wetted paths and gray skies added an extra layer of creepiness! Like some unsettling Slovakian horror fantasy. At times, you could almost forget that you were even in Korea. I

Just, you know, straddling a giant Pinocchio in Chinatown, nothing to see here.

Now I kind of wish this was in my living room. I’ve been looking for years for an adequate couch-substitute and this might actually replace my strong desire for a vintage bumper car TV-watching vessel. Just put some throw pillows down on his legs and get cozy, friends!

I’m not sure Henry was very enchanted by this.

Brookline needs to jazz up the town with some whimsical fiberglass tree things. I’ll mention it at the next town hall.

Well, then Chooch found this Bambi thing and freaked out. I don’t know what it is with him and Bambi, but Korea is the perfect place for him because Bambi just happens to pop up everywhere?!

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I wish a truck selling soondubu stopped on MY street.

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All over Korea, you will see trucks peddling food (like eggs and produce) while announcing their wares in a trance-like cadence over a megaphone. This particular guy was vending tofu.

All those lifestyle Instagrammers would have a field day here with ALL THE WALLS OMG. SUCH CONTENT.

I allowed photos even though I was wearing my hideous glasses.

Even Korea’s sewer grate things are excelsior.

More Bambi, inexplicably.

동화마을 = Fairytale Village (Dong-hwa maeul)

I guess I can’t hate on Chooch’s Bambi fascination too hard because I am definitely into Alice in Wonderland. I was excited when we came across this but it turns out it was just a trick eye museum and we did one of those last year in Insadong.

And you know what they say about trick eye museums: if you’ve been to one…why? you’ve been to ’em all.


So many possible captions here.

Anyway, that was the first part of our visit to Incheon’s Chinatown. Oh! We also went to a little sock shop because Chooch and I are obsessed with Korean socks (THEY ARE FUCKING CUTE AND CHEAP AND ACTUALLY GOOD QUALITY). When Henry was paying, he noticed some old-ass cellphone on the counter and thought it belonged to the lady who had been in line in front of him so he grabbed it and called after her but the cashier was like “yo bro that’s a pop-socket display, put it down!” except he said that in Korean and Chooch and I were like, to each other, “omg he is so embarrassing.” That was the catchphrase of this trip, definitely.

Anyway, the next part will be about how we finally got our jjajangmyeon which will include an explanation of said jjajangmyeon in case you haven’t already googled that shit.

Aug 122019

I’m sad to be home, but the transition back to reality has been less painful this time around. Maybe because it’s still summer so life still feels vacation-y in a way? All I know is that we left the house moderately clean when we left and my mom kept it in great condition for us so we got to come home to a clean house but that lasted less than a day….so, things are definitely on the regular up here in the Pioneer Ave Shanty!

I worked from home on my first day back, but the next day when I went into the office, my group had my desk all decorated for my birthday and they passed out party hats – it was super adorable and made coming back to work way less painful – especially since I had been awake since 4:00am. I even let Margie hug me! She told me I’m not allowed to be gone this long again and you know what it felt nice to be missed, OK?!

And then there was a double-stabbing right down the street from my office.

(Plus what it was it, three??? mass shootings just in the two weeks I was gone? But yeah, South Korea is the scary place to travel to. Come on, America. We can do better.)

Meanwhile, Chooch got kicked out of the library on his first day home so things were REALLY back to normal for him. (It wasn’t his fault though, you guys. He didn’t do it. The librarians are bitches.)

Friday was my work-from-home late shift so Chooch and I happily resumed our Summer Breakfast Club! I’m sure one day Future Chooch is going to look back on this blog and be so fucking thrilled at all the unflattering chewing shots I have of him. On this day, we walked to Mt Lebanon and gave Simone’s a try. I guess it’s relatively new and the reviews were hit or miss, but we had a lovely experience there and our waitress was super laid back and made us feel like we weren’t n00bs and then she called me by my name when she came back with my credit card and I thought to myself, “Hey, Liza, that was a nice touch and right before I calculated your tip, no less. SMARTIE.”

Anyway, Chooch got the Yo Yo Burrito and I had ordering remorse big time when he let me have a bite because it was everything I want in a breakfast burrito – eggs, black beans and lotsa sour cream. I got an omelette which was good but I opted for grits as my side because I can never remember if I like them or not and they were just ok. Are they supposed to be watery? I added some butter to them and then didn’t know what came next so I dumped in some sugar and it was fine but the bowl was HUGE so I didn’t finish it all.

Henry the Grits Enthusiast wasn’t with us so I didn’t know what to do!

Chooch and I both agreed later that this was one of the few times we had a breakfast filling enough to tide us over until lunch. I’m usually hungry again by the time we get back home!

(Unless I have pancakes, then I’m done for the day.)

Back at home, we sorted through more of our luggage. I hate unpacking. Like, who doesn’t though. Actually, I think my luggage is the only one that still needs unpacked and now it’s like a silent standoff to see if Henry will finally cave and do it for me. Anyway, it was fun pulling out the souvenirs and gifts though, like this shirt that Chooch spotted from a mile away in Harajuku, thanks to his strong Corgi-radar. I made him try it on so I could take a picture because I think it’s the cutest, most Chooch-centric shirt ever, perfect for school picture day!

Henry had to work on Saturday and I had been up since like 5am again, so I didn’t do much of anything aside from sorting through pictures, catching up on coaster vlogs on YouTube, and I finally started watching “Dark” on Netflix.

Saw this on my Saturday stroll around Dormont – definitely back in Pittsburgh!

The next day, Henry and I were walking around Brookline when I said, out of nowhere, that my new way of living life is to do everything I want to do instead of just whining about not being able to do the things I want to do. Now, I just say, “I’m going to do this,” and then do it!

Henry just sighed, because he knows what this entails and it’s less of me making things happen and more of me snapping my fingers and cracking the whip until Henry makes the things happen.

“I’ve been so much happier since I started living this way!” I said gleefully, and I think Henry wiped away a tear, I’m not sure.

Later, we went to Sugar Spell Scoops for some after-lunch vegan dessert and my friend Kara happened to also be there with her family, so that was a nice surprise! I still felt like a zombie though so I was not much of a conversationalist.

Anyway, I splurged and had a scoop of blueberry lavender and coffee cake – look, on any other day, that blueberry lavender would have had be doing cartwheels down the street (in my head, anyway) but that coffee cake scoop was THAT GOOD that it overshadowed my beloved lavender.

Seriously, this place is wonderful and creative, and the people running it are just plain old NICE.

And they have cool coloring pages!

Anyway, I pulled the trigger and finally unfollowed Millie’s on social media. The love affair is officially dead, you guys. No longer my favorite scoop shop in the city.

So yeah, that’s the…scoop (OH! I WENT THERE! I’M OFFICIALLY A CORNY 40-YEAR-OLD MOM!) on what I’ve been up to since I’ve been back from the best vacation of my whole entire life! I’m a little less depressed about being home now because Henry is finally on board with going back to Holiday World (and Kentucky Kingdom!) over Labor Day so I have things to look forward to! Turning 40 has not me any more of an adult!

Aug 112019

This is waaaaay more dramatic-sounding that it really was! You know how I do.

But my eye, you guys. My eyeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

I thought I would be OK if we went back to the room so I could take my contact out, and then carry on with business.

I think this was in the City Hall subway station. All I remember is that it was the exit right next to some convenience store where Henry bought a cord for the wifi thingie. So, whatever subway station that is.

Weird family portrait in this mirror-y art installation thing.

Not even an eyeball hanging out of its socket could stop me from taking a picture of the adult shop by our guest house, which we pointed and snickered at EVERY SINGLE TIME and yelled, “IT’S HENRY’S STORE!” This was second only to a lingerie store elsewhere in Hongdae called Sexy Cookie, which I only just realized Friday on our walk home from Summer Breakfast Club that I never took a picture of it!! I tried one night to get Henry to stand in front of it for a picture after he was mouthing off about how things like this didn’t make him feel ashamed or bothered, yet he was super quick to snuff out any impending photo ops, so…

You tell me.

Went back to the room and peeled the contact off my eye.


I’m fucking kidding.

It felt goddamn awful, like several layers of my eyeball slipped off with the contact like fucking onion skin.

Holy fuck.

Now I was at the point where my eyelid was like, “Hey, I’m just gonna stay shut for the next 72 hours, cash me outside if you disagree.” But I kept fighting to keep it open and my eye actually looked like it was bleeding and then the whole fucking lid and area around it turned swollen, so I had to walk around THE FUCKING COOLEST AREA OF SEOUL with my hair flung over my right eye like a follicular curtain of shame. And it would sporadically well up with tears because, as Dr. Henry liked to remind me 87 times during this chapter of my life, “EYES ARE SELF-CLEANING.”

So then my other eye wanted to join the watering party and then it was also raining so my face was all oily with humidity and basically, I wasn’t bringing any Korean boys back with me at this juncture, is all I’m saying. Unless I could find some strange subgroup on the dark Internet of Korean men who like white American girls that look like freshly-punched glazed Easter hams. Then, swipe right boys!

Plus, I was shambling around with only one contact in, so my balance and depth perception were fragile.

Thank god this Taeyong birthday tribute was so gigantic or I might have missed it.

(It was painted over by the following week, in preparation for the next idol shrine to go up.)

It started pouring right when we were looking for a pizza place. (Chooch’s choice—I’ve learned the hard way that sometimes it’s easier to just let him have his way every now and then so that we’re all happy and it’s not, apparently, the Erin Show even though I AM THE REASON WE WERE EVEN THERE!)

My only requirement was that I wanted it to be a place that wasn’t super crowded so that people wouldn’t have to stare at the Mongoloid American. I considered getting an eye patch and pretending like I was healing from plastic surgery, which, in Seoul, no one would even think twice about.

We found a small little walk-up called Monster Pizza right by our room and it was perfect. We sat at a table outside and it was getting dark so my eye was less noticeable maybe.

We went back to the room to relax for a bit and I tried on my new pajamas that I bought in Hongdae after seeing this pattern EVERYWHERE, even in the shops in the subway stations. I was nervous because most shops like that are one-size (or free-size) which made me so nervous last time  to the point where I panicked and refused to buy anything, but this time, I took the (half) blind leap and bought it. AND IT FIT, WOO!!! So then I was just like, “BUY ALL THE SHIRTS!!” after that.

I wanted to see the Han River later that night so we had to take the subway to Yeouido and I thought Henry knew what he was doing but he had us walking for-fucking-ever on some trail which wasn’t actually all that bad because my eye was being a fucker still and it was nice to not have to be around crowds. Nearly ever person we passed on the trail was an old person which I thought was awesome – old people in Korea are so into fitness!  They’re an inspiration.

We saw this random BTS thing next a yacht club. I guess you’re supposed to write a letter to them and put it somewhere, I dunno. America’s oversaturation of them has kind of left a gummy taste in my mouth so I’m not as excited to see BTS stuff anymore. Interestingly, though, Korea doesn’t shove them down a person’s throat as much as you would think so it wasn’t BTS-overload for us at all.

Anyway, we were out by the Han for what felt like hours. The air was so soupy and thick with humidity and my eye felt like it had been removed and replaced with a shrunken Pinhead. I was in PAIN, y’all. However, when Henry suggested that we get our first bingsu of the trip before heading back to the room, I didn’t put up much an argument (although I did whine a lot about the pain I was in, just in case either of my healthy-eyeballed companions forgot).

It felt SO GOOD to be back in Korea’s underground again! Chooch and I developed a really weird attachment to Seoul’s subway system last year and when we first heard the “train is approaching” jingle this time around, I felt my heart skip a beat.

Also, I can’t remember if it was like this last year, but I noticed this time that the jingle for the airport train was a REMIX of the standard subway tune!

Subway art on point, Seoul.

The streets of Hongdae <3

I kept asking Henry if my eye looked OK and he would say yes without hardly looking, so then I would ask Chooch and he would do this sharp intake of breath and then say, “……well…..” with his face molded into a strong YIKES! expression, so if you ever want to know the truth, ask Chooch not Henry.

We went to Sulbing, which is a popular bingsu chain in Korea. Bingsu is a traditional Korean shaved ice dessert, but that description does NOT do it justice. It’s not like that coarse, watery snocone bullshit. This is a soft, velvety, fluffy concoction of what we believe is more of a milk-ice. There are all kinds of seasonal flavors, but the most original, I think, is the patbingsu – red bean. I prefer the green tea varieties, which also usually include a layer of soft, sweet red bean paste (don’t knock it, man—it’s a fucking crime that we don’t use this ingredient in American desserts) and an additional cup of green tea-infused condensed milk to pour over the whole thing.

It is our absolute favorite dessert in Korea! There’s a Korean bakery in Pittsburgh that makes it but they use regular ice and, well, that ain’t it.

Chooch got the tiramisu one, and Korean’s obsession with tiramisu never ceases to amuse me! I thought maybe it was a trend that would have died out by the time we came back, but no—you can find tiramisu-flavored treats in nearly every bakery and dessert cafe.

I always make Henry share a bingsu with me even though I’m sure I could easily clean a bowl on my own, and he gets so annoyed because I always order without consulting him and he dislikes green tea which is my favorite and I ask you, blog, for the 8087986th time, why are we still together?!

I was so miserable up until the bingsu was placed in front of me, but not even the invisible sword impaling my right eyeball could take my bingsu joy away from me. It was the best way to end the day, that’s for sure.

We walked back to the room after this and I went to bed hoping that my eye would be back to normal the next day.

Please look forward to my next post about Incheon’s Chinatown, but in the meantime, you can read about the next morning when Henry and Chooch abandoned me.

Aug 102019

After we left Onion, we set off for Bukchon Hanok Village. I recently saw an article about how it’s South Korea’s “best kept secret” and that made me laugh because this place can be a madhouse, just a bumbling conglomerate of tourists. When we were there last year, it was…pretty crowded. Crowded enough that it was difficult to get any decent photos. I wanted to try again, by going on a weekday morning and the streets leading to the village were nearly empty. It was ghostly!

Oh, also this time around, we made it straight here without getting lost in alleys and yelling at each other, so it was already a better experience! Please enjoy some pictures from our walk around the ridiculously steep streets of Bukchon Hanok Village!

Hanok translates literally to “Korean house.” Some of them have been converted to guesthouses, so you can actually go to Korea and do what is called a “hanok stay” where you sleep on the floor and experience what it was like to live in a house like that way long ago. I know, that doesn’t sound very glamorous, but I bet it’s still wildly interesting and fun!

Oh, and the floors are heated!

I’m in love with this architecture style. When I came back last year, I changed the picture on our shared Wiki page at work to a shot I took from a balcony of the hanok below and one of my co-workers was like, “Wow…a picture of…roofs.”



Here is a picture of Chooch and me, pretending to get along. J/K we actually were  getting along for real at this juncture. Anyway, the street behind us is like the most iconic street, the one that everyone wants to photograph, and Psy even filmed part of music video here. It’s like, so Completely Korea, you know? Iconic. There are lots of other streets too, and some of the hanoks are open to the public and provide arts and crafts workshops, some are galleries, some are little boutiques. But also, a lot are actual residences (I imagine the people living there have some big ₩₩₩).


Look how wet Chooch’s hair is! Wet with sweat! It was pretty rainy and humid for the first few days we were there, and then after that it was just humid. And Asian humidity is NO JOKE. I thought that coming from Pittsburgh, where are summers are typically hot and soupy, I would be somewhat prepared, but then we ended up having a pretty mild summer here so far so I WAS NOT PREPARED for the humidity and actually, now that I’m home, it feels CHILLY to me and I am sitting here with a blanket on my lap while I type this.

Something interesting that I noted in Seoul is the summer fashion. Here, people wear the least amount of clothes as possible when it’s hot. But in Korea, protecting the skin is a priority, so you would still see most people walking around in pants and long-sleeves. And if they were wearing shorts, then their shirt would be a billowy blouse. Or if you saw someone in a tank top (not very often) they would almost definitely have jeans on. This was appealing to me because I am so body-conscious that I was giddy to be in a place where I could stay covered and not get strange looks. And honestly, it made me feel even more comfortable.

I really think I would thrive if I lived in Korea, lol.

Also, I never did anything with my hair the whole time we were there. First, it was because my hair straightener didn’t work in our guest house because of the voltage and I considered if it was even worth buying a different straightener but the weather forecast app opened magically on my phone with a message that said, “ARE YOU DUMB?” So most days, I didn’t even dry it after showering, just let the humidity do it’s thang, lol.

Being here makes me feel like I’m walking through a historical drama.

This type of architecture has been around since the 14th century. Amazing.

I love how you can see modern Seoul in the background.

My calves would be poppin’ if I had to walk up this every day.

I wonder if they ever do any kind of walking/running challenges in this area. In Pittsburgh, we have a TON of hilly streets and there is a marathon built around that, I feel like it has something to do with “Hell” and “Hills” but I can’t think of the proper name for it right now. And actually, the alleged “steepest road in the world” is like, a mile away from my house. So there are some similarities to my home that is so interesting to think about. Because who would ever compare Pittsburgh to Seoul.

When we reached the top of this road, I looked at Chooch and panted, “Welcome back to Korea!” because our whole last visit was summarized by “TRUDGING UP HILLS.” Lol.

Chooch at the top. We never would have been able to get this shot last year! Or if we came later in the day, or on a weekend. Good lord.

Afterward, it was starting to get dangerously close to lunch time and Chooch and I need to be regularly-fed in order to maintain our angelic dispositions, so we had to start walking to Tongin Market before it got any later. Henry was legit racing the clock at this point because Chooch and I turn on the HUNGER faster than vampires at sunset.

Chooch and I stepped off the road when we saw a vending machine, because he wanted a Gatorade (which apparently tastes different in Korea) but neither of us told Henry so he kept walking and then we were pissed when he didn’t even care that he lost us, so that backfired.

Random art wall.

We got to walk past the Blue House, where the president lives! MUCH BETTER PRESIDENT THAN OURS, that’s all.

It was about a 30-minute walk to Tongin Market, but we somehow made it without getting lost and then we all stuffed our faces and were quite happy. I wrote about that while we were still in Korea, and you can read that here if you are so inclined. 

We were going to get bingsu after this but then we realized that the place I chose was actually a super far walk and it was starting to rain, and by this point, my right eyeball was SCREAMING and when I checked my reflection in the Tongin Market bathroom market, my eye was as bloodshot as one of those aforementioned vampires and it was straight screaming for me to take the contact out.