Tuna Tar-Tart

I suck at everything. Probably more than you do. I enjoy experimenting with cheese and playing with glue sticks. You might know me from that other joint, LiveJournal.

Apr 032020
 

Look. I’m over this. All the days blend together. What did I do on Monday? THE SAME THING I DO EVERYDAY, APPARENTLY. So here are some highlights broken up into five categories I guess, because I have little left to give. Full day recaps? To quote the letter HNC wrote the landlord, “that ain’t happening.”

  1. BAKED GOODS

Chooch has been on a roll with the baking. Here are the delights he whipped up over the course the week. Not shown: the healthy banana pancakes he made for breakfast on Thursday which were delicious but the recipe told him to cook them for 3 minutes before flipping and we almost got smoked out of the house.

Healthy carrot muffins. God yes. 

Weight Watcher-approved lemon bars. I refuse to believe these were WW-approved, and I’m not doing WW or anything but I appreciate that Chooch considers the fact that I am uber-conscious about the food I eat, especially now that we’re on lockdown and overeating is soooo easy to succumb to. Trust me, I would love to sit around all day and snack but I have to try even harder now to not do that!

37-calorie brownies – these were a big hit!

He just needs to work on presentation, haha.

2. FIGHTS

  • I lost my shit on Tuesday because Chooch watches Shane Dawson videos everyday (after like a three year hiatus!!), and if he’s not watching Shawn, he’s watching Shane’s boyfriend Ryland, whose stupid sister is always making appearances and I might perhaps hate her the most. So I banned all three of them from our house. “AND THEIR STUPID FUCKING FRIEND WITH THE GLASSES TOO!” “Garrett?!” Chooch cried. “Yes, that douchebag! I don’t want to fucking see his face or hear his voice!” “How do you even know him?” Chooch cried, and I screamed, “BECAUSE OF THAT ONE VIDEO WHERE RYLAND AND HIS DUMB SISTER TRY TO SPEND NOTHING FOR ONE DAY AND THEY GO TO HIS HOUSE AND HE MAKES THEM LUNCH FROM SHIT HE BOUGHT AT 7-ELEVEN AND MAKES THEM SIT ON THE FLOOR BC HE JUST CAME BACK FROM JAPAN.” Chooch’s face lit up with question marks. “You left that video on the TV the other day when you went to your room and your dad and I watched almost the whole thing because we had no COVID-motivation to turn it off!” Honestly, even if I have headphones on while I’m working, I can hear every single one of those idiots’ voices over top of it and it gets under my skin so much. WHY DO THEY SCREAM SO MUCH?! I HATE THEM! THEY ARE WORTHLESS! FAMOUS FOR ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!! 
  • Henry and Chooch fought over the carrots for the previously-mentioned carrot muffins.
  • HNC’S WIFE AND SLUT LIFE HAD A FIGHT WEDNESDAY EVENING FROM THEIR RESPECTIVE PORCHES!!! I couldn’t hear what was said because it was really windy and we live on a busy street, but I was excited to see a fight that complied with social distancing guidelines.
  • Me vs Henry, re: everything down to his breathing.
  • Chooch vs me, re: both of us knowing everything.

3. WORK

  • I miss my co-workers, but the ones I have at home are pretty great. Fine, even Chooch, who today said, “Teamwork makes the dream work” when I helped him fit some crap in his backpack. “Wow, that’s the second time I heard that since yesterday!” I laughed, and he said, “Yeah, I only said it because I heard someone say it on the work call you were on yesterday.” Ugh. I will say though that at least when I’m in the office, no one steals my seat if I get up for more coffee.

  • I mentioned already here that Tuesday was Cheryl’s last day so Amber arranged a virtual toast for her. It was super awkward, but I had luckily had done all of my crying earlier that day when Cheryl and I were emailing with each other for the last time. I chose strawberry soju for my toast of choice. It was a good decision.

  • I keep it cold enough in the house that a blanket is necessary, to help me feel like I’m actually in the office. 
  • Yeah, I have nothing exciting to say about work. We’re all kind of shell-shocked, I think. We have these check-in calls and everyone either seems starved for conversation or speechless. On one of the calls, one of my co-workers told this 15-minute long story about people hiding wine outside of her house, and something about Malort, I actually have no idea what was happening so we all just laughed nervously. It all happened so fast yet also dragged on for an eternity, please explain how that’s possible. Time is a mystery during a pandemic.

4. BOOKS

  • I can’t tell you how impeccable my timing was when I decided I wanted to carve out time for reading. Books have been my saving grace during lockdown At first, I was so sad that the library was closed, but then I remembered that Chooch has an old Kindle, so my new thing, while working through the stockpile I was able to check out from the library on that last day (I only have 4 more left though!!), is to download both the ebook and audio versions of books so that I can listen to them while I’m working. I HAVE to have the print copy of books in front of me while listening to them though because otherwise I will zone out and not pay attention. Obviously, I have to pause it a lot if I’m working on something that requires my undivided attention, but it has been going pretty well. I can’t do this in the office though because I like to be aware of my surroundings. I guess I’m just weird. 
  • I read two REALLY EXCELLENT books in a row, yesterday and today, and that has really given me life, you guys. I will talk about them in my APRIL book recap so look forward to that I guess? I busy myself by adding books to my “Want to read” shelf on Goodreads and watching BookTube videos to get hyped on new books. It’s really helping to distract me from the doom and gloom of the outside world.

DEPRESSION & OTHER MINUTIAE

  • I admit it, I’m fully depressed at this point. To be fair, I’m bipolar and my depression comes and goes like leaves in the wind (literally) so I could have been depressed right now even without a pandemic acting as a catalyst. But I am really struggling. I’m one of those people who are both introvert ad extrovert, depending on the situation, so the prospect of being housebound only appeals to a small percent of my brain, while the rest of me is like I NEED TO BE IN THE OFFICE. I NEED TO MAKE MY ROUNDS AND TALK TO MY BUDDIES. I NEED TO GO ON MY DOWNTOWN LUNCH WALKS AND SEE WHAT STRANGE INTERACTIONS BEFALL ME. I NEED TO JUST BE OUT WITH PEOPLE. It can be a very confusing and contrary way of life, but this who I am and I am suffering. I have little energy and have to force myself to exercise everyday, I am finding that I am clamming up when I’m on group calls at work even if I have things to say, which is strange because you’d expect me to start blurting my own versions of people hiding wine stories, and god knows I have neighborhood to say! But instead, I say nothing because I’m tired and my soul aches. I still manage to get dressed most days, but I have stopped caring about my nails, even. I’m just sad. 
  • Snail mail must be back in vogue now that everyone is housebound because both of our card shops have enjoyed a jump in sales. I’m about to look for penpals. 
  • Right now, we were supposed to have been on a plane to Frankfurt. I know that there are much more important things to care about right, like being thankful for good health, family/cats, and having a job, and that if we all come out of this OK, we’ll go another time. But it still adds to the depression because we worked so hard to save the money for that trip and I feel super antsy and caged-in. Anyway, I gave back my vacation days because I didn’t want to use them if we weren’t going anywhere, but I did keep today off. I mean, it was no different from every other day, except that I didn’t have to sit at my desk and work. Sigh.

  • But on a good miscellaneous note, we got take-out from Zenith because they had the super coveted TOFISHY sandwiches on the menu. This is my FAVORITE THING that Zenith makes and I pretty much inhaled it. No one told me to slow-down, so I ate with piggish abandon.
  • Meanwhile, Slut Life has a blue convertible now so his music will be even more audible as he peels in and out of the driveway a thousand times a day. SRSLY WHERE IS HE GOING?! We have no idea, but I guess no one told him about the Stay Home order. Most of the time, he is only gone for 10-15 minutes before he comes back again! Then he goes through the process of struggling to park his dumb car in the tiny garage, only to leave again in a few minutes!! He doesn’t seem like a drug dealer, so then I thought maybe he’s a pizza delivery guy? Like, maybe he works at one of the local pizzerias and they have him stay home because of social distancing and then they call him when an order is ready to be picked up? Maybe he’s Doordash or Grub Hub? I mean, he’s not going far! 
  • I’m still on an MTV Challenge kick. I was watching some old highlight reel and Henry laughed quietly and whispered to himself, “Abram!” like he was delighted to see an old friend. Then he goes, “IS THAT BETH?” It’s so funny when Henry knows their names, lol. 
  • This song is really good. There’s a small guitar solo in it that has Chuck Mangione vibes and transports me back to the 80s, sitting in a booth at the Blue Flame with my pappap. Chuck Mangione came on the radio there a lot, at least in my memories.

OMG I’m so fucking sad. 

Apr 022020
 

When all the days blend together like the art therapy watercolor I should probably start painting in order to curb my insanity, do weekends even really count anymore? Still, I woke up on Saturday and was like, “YAY WEEKEND!” because that means Henry will do stuff around the house.

(I’m glad he has a job, but not too stoked that he’s considered “essential” and has to leave the house everyday.)

Well, here are some highlights, because there’s no use in being big whiny bitch babies when we still have our good health (knock on all the wood).

Chooch has been really into destroying the kitchen cooking and baking, and who am I to stop a growing boy from exploring his culinary interests? Especially when I reap the rewards, like the delicious veggie burger he made FROM SCRATCH. It was the best veggie burger I’ve ever had this side of the Impossible one.

God, what else happened on Saturday? I’m sure lots of screaming. And I probably read until I got a headache.

That evening, I made Henry help me go over some of the Korean vocabulary that I learned in the beginning of my textbook because I didn’t study most of them enough to really memorize them because I’m 40 can’t remember how to study anymore.

Henry was, really something. Apparently he can’t read my handwriting and was basically just saying yes to everything but he did say no once and I nearly flipped the table because it was a word I was confident about but turns out he just can’t read.

Then I asked him to write the words in Hangul on a whiteboard paddle but after watching him struggle through two of them, Chooch was like OH FOR GOD’S SAKE and took over. Thanks, Chooch.

(Chooch can read & write Hangul fairly well!)

The korean language will probably be the death of me but goddamn I sure do love it so much.

Then we were going to watch a movie but instead I fell down the slippery slope that is MTV’s The Challenge highlight reels on YouTube. GUYS: we haven’t had MTV in 2 or 3 years, since cutting back cable, and it is the ONLY thing I miss about TV.

Henry used to watch this watch with me too so we were both steeping in the nostalgia like two raunchy reality tea bags. It is how I learned what a carabiner is!

(As I write this, Henry is searching for ways to get MTV without adding $$$ to our cable bill haha.)

SUNDAY was so heartbreakingly beautiful! My lord, nearly 80 degrees and blue skies in March, yes gimme.

I wanted to go for a walk and clearly parks and trails are out of the picture these days so I suggested our favorite cemetery in the North Side which almost never has other (living) people in it but by the time we were getting ready to leave there were SIX of us and that is A LOT for Uniondale!

Still, we were diligent and aware and never got close at all to anyone else. When you turn it into a game, it’s kind of thrilling.

Meanwhile, HNC texted me and asked me if it was OK to namedrop me in the letter he was writing to the landlord about Slut Life. Oh please do, I replied! Then he asked if I wanted a copy of it and oh my god do I.

I have three cameos in the letter! I was so excited! Henry, conversely, was much less thrilled that he was also mentioned when HNC insinuated that Henry likely shared the same sentiments. He does not want to be involved in this AT ALL.

Penelope looked out the window. We watched more The Challenge nostalgia videos and tried not to have panic attacks. Maybe that last part was just me. I’ve been having to say, “JUST BREATHE” to myself a lot to get my heart rate to chill the fuck out. It’s fine.

Oh! And Chooch made these chocolate oat bar things that looked a hot mess but were very delicious. At least some good things are coming out of quarantine.

If you’re reading this, I hope you and everyone you love are doing well and hanging in there. I am so afraid of dying, or having someone close to me die, that I can’t do anything else but shove my face in a book to avoid the news.

Be safe, guys!

 

Apr 012020
 

What a wild month. March started out slow for me because I got sick on the very first day of the month and WAS TOO SICK TO READ FOR TWO WHOLE DAYS.

But on March 3rd, I was ready to really dive into my first book and it was a real unexpected treat! More on that soon.

In more wildness, the Carnegie Library announced on 3/13 that it would be closing at the end of the day on 3/14 and stay closed until 3/31, in an effort to stay safe during the coronavirus crisis. Obviously, props to them for being responsible. But selfishly, I was SCREAMING. I had to go to their website the night before and check to see which of my “want to read” books are currently available at my local branch, made a list, and walked there the next morning with a canvas bag.

People mass-buying toilet paper while I’m out there scooping up books from the library.

And, as with the previous two months, I had another book coincidence to make it a three month streak: two back-to-back books mentioned the act of kneeling on uncooked rice.

KNEELING ON UNCOOKED RICE!

Also, the Spanish Flu was referenced in several of these books and I fucking swear….this universe.

Anyway, let’s get into it!

  1. Blue Monday – Nicci French

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I picked this up because I kept seeing it all over BookTube and Good Reads. I figured it would be a good filler book, a light “thriller,” but I was absolutely blown away by this. The characters! I’m so glad this is a series because I grew so attached to them. Anyway, the book is centered around Frieda, a psychoanalyst who has some issues of her own (like insomnia). Her relationships with the side-characters and the dialogue between them was just as compelling as the child-kidnapping main plot of the book. She is fascinating and I can’t wait to read more from this series (I hope that the Ukranian handyman, Josef, and his comedic relief make more appearances!). I think this would be good for people who like Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta books.

Fun fact: Nicci French is actually the pen name of a married couple, who also write separately.

2. The Troop – Nick Cutter

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OK, shit. Goddamn. This book. Wow. A boy scout troop is on some small isolated Canadian island for a weekend camping trip with their Scout leader, but then some mysterious stranger shows up, on his deathbed, his body wrecked, ravaged, and infiltrated by lab-created parasitic worms. BODY HORROR GALORE. Probably the WORST book for me to read while recovering from a stomach bug, but, you know, I said I was looking for a book that would actually SCARE me. Well, this scared me and also made me involuntarily dry-heave. Since I was working from home several days during that first week of March, I decided to see if I could find this on audio book as well, so in addition to reading, I listened to parts of it if I was doing particularly mindless work at the time, and I really enjoyed it! It helped to have the physical copy of the book though because there are transcripts of lab experiments peppered throughout the book, newspaper articles, interviews…it was helpful to read along for those parts.

And remember last month when I was bitching because of that one book, Kill Creek, was so nauseatingly descriptive? SO IS THIS BOOK. Except that by nauseatingly descriptive, I mean that the writing is SO FUCKING GOOD that I actually felt like I was going to puke. I 100% couldn’t eat while reading this and I’m not going to lie: there were chunks that I had to skip because it was animal-related and just…written so skillfully that it was like watching it on TV. Nick Cutter is GOOD.

Henry was sitting next to me on the couch when I was reading this page and HIS HAT FELL OFF AND LANDED ON MY SHOULDER, CAUSING ME TO SHRIEK SHRILLY AND JUMP IN THE AIR.

After I read it, I found out that Nick Cutter also writes under the name Craig Davidson, the author of Saturday Night Ghost Club, which I read last month and also loved! His Nick Cutter alter-ego is definitely more gross, though, ha.

3. Radio Silence – Alice Oseman

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My favorite BookTuber, Kat from Paperbackdreams, is always going on and on about how this is her favorite book, so I finally picked it up. It was interesting to me because it follows a British girl in her last years of high school, preparing for college, and I know next to nothing about how the UK school system works so I learned a lot about that, for instance, I was like, “The fuck is an A-level” but now I know.

I think this book would have had more an impact on me if I was younger, and having that post-high school crisis; but as it is, I’m 40 years old and far-removed from exams and college applications (although I guess that will be my reality in a few years with Chooch), but I still really enjoyed this story. It brought back some belly-aching sensations though when the main character, Francis, has a falling out with her best friend—isn’t it amazing how, no matter how long ago high school was, those sick feelings in the pit of the stomach can be recalled almost instantaneously. Or is that just me? Lol.  God, anytime a memory pops up of some teenage confrontation, I feel nauseated like it just happened yesterday.

Oh, the one thing I really loved about this book is the broad LGBTQ+ representation, and the fact that this book doesn’t involve the two main characters falling in love (not a spoiler, it’s mentioned very early on in the book). That was refreshing! A boy and girl simply….being friends. We love to see it.

Bonus: a smidge of Korean shows up in!

<3

4. Convenience Store Woman – Sayaka Murata

Convenience Store Woman

For as short as this book is (around 170 pages, I think?), it wasn’t a quick read for me. I could only read so many pages at once before losing interest, and it made me sad because I had high hopes for this book based on what I heard about it. I’m going to chalk it up to bad translation, maybe? I think something must have definitely gotten lost.

The premise is that this 36 year old Japanese woman has been working in a convenience store for like, 19 years. There are little dips into her childhood and she’s portrayed as perhaps a blossoming psychopath. So she gets this job at convenience store, becomes obsessed with the comfortable predictability of her days, the safe routine, and essentially uses it as a “manual” to act like a human. She is basically faking it to make it, and when she is eventually forced to leave her job, she has no basis of knowing how to live or act anymore.

It makes me wish I knew Japanese so that I could read it as it was originally written because I really feel like this book had to have been better than this. Especially because a lot of the blurbs on the back cover talked about how funny it was and that was lost on me, yo. I gave it a 3 on Goodreads, but I think maybe a 2.5 is more accurate.

5. The Poet X – Elizabeth Acevado

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YES. YES YES YES. This is 100% a book I never would have picked up on my volition, but I saw that the audio book was available on Overdrive and I kept hearing about how wonderful the audio version is because it’s read by the author herself. Yeah boi, this was a real gift. It’s written in slam-poetry format which should have deterred me because I don’t like a poetry, but hearing it read by Elizabeth Acevado was so compelling.

It’s a coming-of-age story about a 15-year-old Dominican who lives in NYC, her secret love of writing, her strained relationship with her ultra-strict and religious mom, her bond with her twin brother, her questioning of religion, her falling in love. I recommend the audio book but also getting a physical copy because it’s fun to read along since it’s written in prose.

6. Evvie Drake Starts Over – Linda Holmes

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I picked this up 100% based on the cover. I kept seeing it in the current best sellers display at the library and I finally snatched it up. I mostly listened to the audiobook though, because I had two back-to-back work from home days early in March so I cruised through it then. It was…fine. Predictable. The dialogue was nice but I admittedly didn’t enjoy the narrator too much. Her male voices were questionable, like they were all suddenly royalty. It was a nice feel-good read but it won’t stick with me.

7. Red, White, & Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston

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I was LOVING this at first! It’s a Post-Obama America. We have A DEMOCRATIC WOMAN PRESIDENT. Her kids are BIRACIAL – MEXICAN! Haha, fuck you, Trump! The First Son has a years-long feud with one of the Princes of England, Henry. It’s a classic hate-to-love trope but what I hated was that it goes to “love” way too quick. And then the character of the First Son, Alex, starts to get super annoying and I honestly began to wonder why Henry settled for him.

There’s a little bit of politics here, some seriously fun side characters (who were way more interesting than Alex, to be honest), and the obvious WHAT WILL THEY THINK ABOUT US dilemma. What I didn’t like was that it was awkwardly smutty. I think that it needed way more faux-hateful buildup – Casey McQuinton gave it away too fast. The second half of the book was just not Fun Times for me, as a reader. I wanted to be rooting for them way harder than I was but instead I was just like, “Come on, Henry, you can do better.”

Which is, coincidentally, what people have been saying to my Henry since 2001!

8. The Incendaries – R.O. Kwon 

The Incendiaries

This is about a religious cult with ties to North Korea. I listened to the audiobook for this but also had the physical copy on hand, which is the best way for me personally to listen to audio books. The narrator had a pretty boring, monotone voice, so that didn’t help, but the writing was really beautiful. Just extremely lovely. I love how the narrative was woven in between three characters: John Leal, the leader of the cult; Phoebe, an American Korean who gets sucked into the cult; and Will, Phoebe’s boyfriend who is leery of what is happening but unable to stop it.

I actually didn’t like Will and so all of his chapters were difficult for me to get through. I kept picturing Penn Badgley because Will reminded me a bit of Joe, the main character from “You.” He was obsessed and consumed with the idea of Phoebe, and of being with her, to the point where it was pretty clear that he didn’t even see her as a person. She was way out of his league, like your typical Prince Henry to First Son Alex. It just made me feel uncomfortable. It was a short book though, so I didn’t have to be “uncomfy” for too long. I think I gave this a 3.5, but R.O. Kwon can really throw down a shiny sentence. I’d read more of her shit, but this one just wasn’t exactly what I was looking for.

I AM SEW GUD AT REVIEWING BOOKZ.

9. Here We Are Now – Jasmine Warga

Here We Are Now

Another audiobook and physical book tag-team action with this one, and I’m really glad because the main character’s mom is Jordanian and the narrator used the most beautiful accent when speaking her parts! This was just really cute. Teenager daughter meets her rock star dad for the first time while mom is away in Paris, and goes on a road trip with him back to his hometown because his dad is dying. She finally gets to learn the history of her parents, how they met, why it didn’t work, which one left. I could see this being turned into a Netflix movie – it was really sweet and there are so many super hipster music references peppered throughout so I could only imagine how stacked the soundtrack would be.

The mom character is such a great representative of a strong, independent woman and I loved that part of this book. “It wasn’t enough” is something that she says numerous times throughout the book and that resonated. DON’T SETTLE LIKE PRINCE HENRY DID!

Ughhhh!!

10. The Dream Thieves – Maggie Stiefvater

The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle, #2)

This is the second book in the Raven Cycle series – I read the first one last month and I fell in deep. I’m still kind of *scratches head* when it comes to the actual “quest” plot of this series, but THE CHARACTERS. From the Raven Boys to Blue and her houseful of psychics, I’m actually starting to dream about these people now. Obviously Gansey is my favorite, but Ronan’s “he’s gonna snap any minute” brand of shitty snark is the perfect balance of menacing and “WHO HURT YOU??” There is a heart of gold under all of that abrasive armor. And he has a pet raven named Chainsaw, you guys. Come on.

I really regret not getting the last two books while the library was still open. :/ I’m still 16-years-old at heart, OK? Lay off.

It really is the problem. STAY HOME!!

11. Sometimes I Lie – Alice Feeney

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This was a real fun ride, but I gotta be real: I didn’t quite understand the very last page? But if you’re down with unreliable narratives and a twist that I certainly didn’t see coming, then pick this up! Sometimes I have to stop myself from only reading thrillers, exclusively.

12. Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel

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Well, this was a timely tome, wasn’t it? A new flu from Russia kills off 99.9% percent of the world’s population, but this novel mostly details on the aftermath, fastwarding 10-15 years into the future. It follows a traveling symphony and theater troupe, and it has Walking Dead vibes, without the zombies.

My favorite parts though were when the book jumped back into the past, building up relationships between some of the characters. Pre-pandemic, the main location was Toronto and I was so excited when Spadina was name-dropped because that is MY FAVORITE STREET IN TORONTO and it’s so fun to say!!

The writing was SO GOOD. I listened to the audiobook solely for this one and usually I have issues following along without the print copy, but this was so engaging that I never felt lost. Because of the current state of the world, though, this definitely gave me anxiety. I wouldn’t last a day if this was our reality.

A KIND REMINDER TO STAY HOME. COUGH IN YR FUCKING ELBOW OR BETTER YET JUST HOLD IT IN FOREVER. DONT JUST WASH YR HANDS, CUT THEM OFF.

13. Confessions – Kanae Minato

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THIS BOOK, WOWIE WOW WOW. A teacher’s 4-year-old daughter dies and it turns out one of her students did it (not a spoiler). The book is broken up into various narrators/parts and I swear to god, each part made me gasp and I couldn’t wait to see how it could possibly end.

My only complaint was that it was short and I wanted so much more, but apparently there was an Oscar-nominated short film made a few years ago and now I need to find that.

14. My Sister, the Serial Killer – Oyinkan Braithwaite

Loved this one too! Man, I was on a real good streak there for a minute. This book is another shortie–the chapters just cruise on by. I highly recommend the audio book for this one too because the author is Nigerian and there are lines here and there, primarily when the mom gets worked up, that are written in the native language (Igbo? Maybe?) and it just really adds to the story to be able to hear those parts spoken.

This played like a movie, or a Netflix series, in my head. So vivid. I cared about both sisters, but shit I just wanted all the best for the main, non-killer sister. This is such a fun, quick read, and I want a sequel.

15. Lock Every Door – Riley Sager

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This book is always coming up on BookTube and I’m glad I was able to snag it on the library’s last day pre-lockdown. It wasn’t a game-changer in the Thriller World, by any means, but it was FUN. If you read my Friday Five from last week, you know that I compared it the old made-for-TV movie Nightmare on the Thirteenth Floor so there was a moment where I was ready to be disappointed, but then the plot pivots a bit and the twist is…a bit more realistic? Maybe? I mean, crazy shit happens in real life every day, so sure, we’ll believe it.

I added another Riley Sager book to my queue, Final Girls, so we’ll see if this was a fluke or nah.

16. The Ballad of Black Tom – Victor LaValle

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This was real interesting. I didn’t think I would like it because it’s set in the 1920s which doesn’t do it for me, and it’s also an homage to Lovecraft, whom I never much got into. But it held my attention and I was rooting for Black Tom. What a smartly written novella that combines Lovecraftian themes with the intense racism of the 1920s.

17. We Sold Our Souls – Grady Hendrix

We Sold Our Souls

Yeah, I’m done with this guy. I read “My Best Friend’s Exorcism” last month (or in January?) and I wanted to like it so much but it just kind of read like a really bland middle grade book. But I always see people recommending his books so I wanted to try one more – no. His style just really isn’t for me at all. His characters have no depth. Literally no development at all!

The premise of this book is so great: the singer of a small-time metal band from the 90s basically screws over the bandmates and goes on to become this mega-star while the rest of them, specifically the guitarist and co-founder of the band, Kris, are left in the dust. The whole book is about Kris’s mission to confront him, but it turns out that there’s devil shit at play and demonic obstacles in the way.

I just didn’t care. These characters like cardboard to me, and the cheesiness is just off the charts. I threw it across the room when I was done and then felt bad because it’s a library copy. :/

Other than that, I thought the cover was nice and I liked that the edges of the pages were black?

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Man, my desire to get back into reading couldn’t have come at a better time. I have so many books to devour that I almost don’t care that I can’t leave the house.

Almost.

Mar 312020
 

My co-worker Cheryl is retiring today after 23 years of The Law Firm service, and I have to tell you: I’m kind of glad that we’re all on this mandatory work-from-home order because I was able to cry alone at my dining room office rather than do that awkward thing I do in the real office where I try to hide from people on their last day because I want everyone to think I’m an anti-social robot who doesn’t care about people when I’m actually disgustingly empathetic to the point where I hate myself daily.

Anyway, what an odd time this is, having to say goodbye to a cherished co-worker via conference call instead of eating cake and awkwardly one-arm hugging. Cheryl has been my mentor in that department for years, and anytime a kpop group is going to be on daytime TV, she emails in case I want to “tape” it. I’m actually crying again, hold on, OMG.

OK I’m back. I had to wipe my tears with a tissue and then wash and sterilize my hands for the 87th time this afternoon.

I thought today would be a good day to do another “Things Around My House” post and highlight the clown paintings that Cheryl sold me several years ago, which hang proudly above my bed!

Some guy made them for her mom in the 60s; she knew him from the campground they use to go to and he liked to sit around, drawing clowns apparently. And thank god he did!

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They were waiting for me at work one day several years ago and 90% of my co-workers were totally skeeved out by them, so that made me love them even more. I couldn’t stop smiling! I loved that one of them has a bird nest on his head!

“They’re so majestic,” I whispered, and everyone around me laughed BUT I WAS BEING SERIOUS. They were way more amazing than I could have imagined. Totally worth it.

Then Glenn meandered over, and in a total Henry-esque moment, he picked one up and to get a better look at the frame.

“These are nice frames,” he said, admiring it closer now. “The wood is really good,” he added, tapping on it. “I think it could be wormy oak.” I started laughing so hard, totally couldn’t help it. He looked annoyed, made some last minute disparaging remarks, and retreated.

When I put the pictures in the car last night, Henry also went right for the frames. “Those are really nice frames,” he said, and I began having deja vu. “Maybe wormy chestnut….or oak.”

Anyway! I’m glad that I have something to remind me of Cheryl! She also said that she’s giving me her bird coffee cup, so I’m happy about that too. It’s going to be SO WEIRD there without her. If we ever go back, I mean.

Mar 292020
 

Since there’s not much else going on in life during isolation aside from lounge wear and calling into meetings, I figured I would start a new “series” (but you know how I am with these things; I’ll probably do two and forget about it) featuring items around my house, tchotchkes and souvenirs that have little stories behind them, etc etc blah blah blah.

To start out, let’s talk about this stuffed hippo that I have had since I was 16, and in every place I have lived, he has always been out and about on display.

Please say annyeong to Steve the Hippo!

But, let’s back up. Like, back waaaay up to the summer of 1995. I was a freshly-minted 16-year-old on one of those coach bus tours through Europe with my aunt Sharon. These tours were always the same: a bunch of retirees, maybe some middle-aged couples, and then me, the lone kid. Lots of continental breakfasts where the hot chocolate is ACTUALLY OVALTINE, and hectic tours of one cathedral after another. And Sharon and I were so hot and cold with each other and more often than not, we would bicker and then go half the day giving each other the cold shoulder. But this time, on this particular trip, there was a slew of young’uns in our group and I could not have been happier. I had other people to sit with, walk with, eat with, and Sharon HATED THAT.

This tour consisted of mostly elderly people, still, but we also had Nick (14), who was traveling with his grandma; Amanda (15), Natalie (13), and Noah (10), who came with their single mom; Andrea (19) and Sarah (22), on a girls trip with their mom; and Greg (14), Steve (20), and Amy (22) who were with their parents. This was my favorite trip ever. Normally, when we had travel days on the bus, I would sleep or read, or stare out the window sullenly after having another argument with Sharon (seriously, oil and water, but damn do I miss her and these wild adventures she took me on), but now, I had friends to sit with and let me know you – we were total jackasses.

Sharon ended up befriending Andrea (who reminded me so much of Alanis Morissette – I was enthralled by her) and Sarah’s mom, Mary. When we were cleaning out my grandparents’ house in 2016, I found a bunch of cards and letters from Mary in Sharon’s room; they apparently had kept in touch for quite some time after the trip ended and that made me simultaneously happy and sad, because Sharon didn’t really have friends “in real life” so it was nice to know that she had made a somewhat lasting connection with someone from the group, but it also made me sad because I started to wonder about Mary – is she well? How are Andrea and Sarah? I was inspired to look them up on Facebook when I was still on there, and I actually found someone who might have been Sarah, but I felt weird about sending a friend request, like “Hi, I was just over here in Pittsburgh cleaning out my deceased aunt’s bedroom and found letters from your mom and so I did a deep-dive on the Internet and you probably don’t remember me because we only knew each other for three weeks in 1995 but wanna be friends?”

I guess it’s not that weird, really, but I was so emotionally drained during that summer in 2016 that I let it go.

Right before that trip, I had gone to get my hair cut at some shitty salon in Century III Mall called Shear Talent or something and I even brought a picture of Carrie Brady from Days of Our Lives with me and told the bald hairdresser that this is what I wanted, but he listened to my mom instead and cut my hair IN REALLY SHORT LAYERS, literally the shortest my hair has ever been, and it was actually traumatizing (oh, don’t act like you have never thought your life was over because of a bad salon experience!!!) and I remember wailing, “I NEVER SHOULD HAVE TRUSTED A HAIR DRESSER WHO LOOKS LIKE MR CLEAN!!” So, I went into this trip with relatively low self esteem. I was ultra-conscious about my hair cut and basically just didn’t want anyone to look at me.

But then one day, Mary looked at me and said, “You know who you look like? Drew Barrymore.” And just like that, my confidence soared. All these years later, and I still remember this so vividly, this nice woman named Mary from Michigan telling me I looked like some cute actress instead of the total toad I saw every morning when I looked in the mirror. She was being very generous with her compliments, though.

I know, you’re thinking, “I thought this was about a stuffed hippo?” We’re getting to that! I just get derailed sometimes.

Out of all the young people in our group, Steve was the one with whom I had the best rapport. At first, it started with just little sarcastic jabs here and there, but then I found myself looking for excuses to talk to him. I have always been super big into souvenirs. On one of our trips, I was obsessed with obtaining a collectors spoon (????) from each country, and I’m currently a serious magnet hoarder. But on this trip, it was all about key chains. And European key chains, at least in the 90s, were really hard to open. So I’d buy a key chain in every city and then sidle up to Steve and ask him to do it for me. Even if I could do it for myself.

I mean, I definitely have not outgrown this at ALL.

I totally had a crush on him—and even admitted it at one point in my vacation journal so you know it’s real—which probably definitely was not reciprocated by him because he was in college and I was some chubby, brace-faced 16-year-old from lame-ass Pittsburgh but our hyper-snarky love/hate banter always gave me that super minuscule inkling of hope that maybe THIS WAS LOVE.

In a truly passive-aggressive declaration of love, I bought a this small stuffed hippo at an Auto Grille in Italy, on a travel day from Venice to Florence. Back on the bus, we were trying to decide on a name for him, and I smugly said, “I think I’ll name him Steve.” And everyone laughed because you know, wow, Erin is insulting Steve, she must really NOT LIKE HIM AT ALL. (I was so fucking transparent.) All of the kids on the bus were obsessed with Steve the Hippo, for some reason. He became kind of a mascot and everyone would take turns holding him during the long bus rides.

Near the end of the vacation, we were on the bus, going to the overnight ferry that would take us to Greece. Natalie asked Steve, “If you were stuck on an elevator, who would you want to be stuck with?” and without even a millisecond of hesitation, Steve said, “Erin, because I’d like to get to know her better.”

My heart. My goddamn coal-chunk of a heart. I still get a little jolt in it when I remember this moment.

I mean, he also said I was the meanest person on the bus but that’s just because my flirting tactics are borderline-bullying.

Of course, we never kept in touch. And every once in a while, I would get inspired to Google him but always came up empty.

All of these years later, Steve the Hippo is still out and about, and oddly is one of the most precious and sentimental (and cheapest) souvenirs I ever brought back from one of those trips. I was inspired to write this because a couple months ago, I was leaving the bedroom and said goodbye to Steve the Hippo, who lives on my dresser, and Henry was like, “?” so I yelled, “DO YOU NOT KNOW THE STEVE THE HIPPO ORIGIN STORY?!” Needless to say, he was subjected to a much more winded and gushy version than you just read here.

While reading my vacation journal to get details for this post, I said, “Steve threw Steve the Hippo at me so I hit him. Oh look, Steve and I arm-wrestled!”

“Of course you did,” Henry mumbled.

Every time I look at Steve the Hippo, I think about how one time, years ago, someone chose me in the hypothetical elevator game. As I age and lose more and more of my personality, become more introverted and wallflower-y, and am having a particularly low self-esteem day, this memory gives me a boost.

Steve is the first guy there on the left.

On the last day of our vacation, we were on the bus en route to the airport and Steve was holding the hippo. “You’re going to go home and rip all the stuffing out of this thing, aren’t you?” he said to me. I joked that I was going to give it to my dog, but man, if he only knew!

If.He.Only.Knew.

(I wonder if he even remembers me?)

Mar 272020
 

Hello from Week 2 of Covid House Arrest. Things are still weird but I’m grateful that I have a job that allows us to work from home, where I can stay safe with Chooch who is mostly fine to be around, I guess. We both have our moments. Then Henry comes home and creates all of the waves. Anyway, here is a weekday recap because perhaps one day when Chooch is an old man, he will want to reflect on these times with his grandchildren who will shake their heads and ask, “You mean people in 2020 didn’t have Pluto pods to retreat to while the Space Medics eradicated the virus harbingers with lasers?” and Chooch will be all, “No, things were super primitive back then. Civilization had a lot of rebuilding to do post-Donald Trump.”

MONDAY

Oh great. Another week of no structure/routine/discipline. Chooch and I scream randomly now for no reason and respond to each other with aggressively curt “ok cool”s. Welcome to Hell House.

I decide early on that I won’t lose myself to news alerts. This lasts about 36 seconds and I’ve circled back to Chest Pain City.

Chooch lit crackers on fire and threw them outside into the rain. This is where we are now, activity-wise. Setting food aflame. Can we consider this some sort of school experiment? A home-ec/science crossover event?

“Put your headphones back on and listen to your dumb audio book,” Chooch spat after I told him to do something worthwhile.

My team at work has an email thread going where we’re sharing pictures of our pets but mine are sleeping in their secret spots so I share a picture of my non-furry pet instead – he is so happy!

He was in the middle of menacingly saying “what are you going to do with that?”

Henry forwarded both of us a text from the school and we both responded with CAPSLOCK’d shittiness, unbeknownst to each other. Mine was “OH FUCKING KAY.”

Chooch went outside to kick a soccer ball against the house and it hit him in the face, so I’m just going to go ahead and call that as my highlight.

Henry has been home for over an hour but is “napping.” Now we’re screaming MAKE FUCKING DINNER up the steps.

He finally came down and made dinner. I can’t remember what he made. Everything has melded together in my mind. I have to constantly look at my phone to see what day it is.

My friend Veronica alerted me to this!!

TUESDAY

Today is my mom’s birthday. Unrelated, Henry found her toilet paper and dropped it off on her porch. Weird timing, but happy birthday! Enjoy your toilet paper!

Meanwhile, Chooch and I are decidedly office nemeses now. I was trying to listen to an audiobook (“Station Eleven” – super good and um, very timely) but I kept hearing his stupid YouTube videos playing in the other room, even over my headphones so there was a lot of TURN IT DOWN!!!s happening. And he was like, “I can hear your stupid audio book through your headphones!” and I was like, “I HAVE TO KEEP IT LOUD TO BLOCK OUT YOUR STUPID SHIT AND THE BABIES CRYING NEXT DOOR!”

Then I had to call into a meeting and Chooch kept screaming, “SHE SAID YOU’RE ANNOYING!”

“I have it muted, dumb-stick,” I scoffed. Like, does he think I was born yesterday?

It really was a super long meeting though. In other work news, one of the group emails I was on featured a discussion about what cozy clothes we were wearing and I had zero will or desire to participate. I’m basically feral at this point. Don’t talk to me.

No wait, talk to me! I DON’T KNOW WHAT I WANT ANYMORE!

On my break, Chooch and I ran laps around the empty church parking lot across the street. I’m too afraid to venture anywhere farther than that.

Then we looked up allegedly “easy” vegan recipes that we could potentially make during the day since our chef isn’t home, but the first one I put on immediately wanted us to peel a potato and I screamed PEEL IT YOURSELF and started to look for another recipe video but lost interest at an alarming speed and put on a Booktube video instead. But then Chooch found some “Easy Naan-type bread” video but it called for lemon juice for some reason and we don’t have that, so he texted Henry “bring home lemon juice” 8x and Henry responded, “Do you need lemon juice?” because he thinks he’s so fucking funny, about as funny as a fifth grade science teacher from the 70s.

Anyway, Henry came home from work with the lemon juice and suddenly Chooch is a bread baker. I had zero hand in it, which is probably why it turned out ok. He came out of the kitchen with a ball of dough in his meat-mitts and said, “Mom! Look!” and I was like, “Holy shit, that looks like real dough and not that weird-ass paste shit we made last week!” which, to be fair, we determined was my fault because I threw the recipe in the air and just plopped everything together in a bowl at once, and apparently there is a reason why you need to mix the dry ingredients alone and then SLOWLY add the wet shit LITTLE BY LITTLE. Who knew?!

I guess a trillion bakers before me.

They turned out really good and we’re actually un-raw in the middle I like the ones we made last week.

Other than that, we just screamed at each other A LOT and fake-fought.

I finally started watching Itaewon Class that night and finished two books. Henry said, “I hate ‘Reading Erin'” and Chooch said, “Same.” Apparently I shush them too much and get really irritated when they try to live their lives around me.

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Park Seo Joon is so good!

Then I finished reading “Confessions” by Kanae Minato (40th book of the year!) and went to bed.

WEDNESDAY

Somehow I broke my back. It’s probably from sitting in a non-office chair all fucking day long.

The law firm wanted people to submit selfies of their home work spaces and I looked much better in my other attempts but I had to use this one because Drew’s in the background. I dunno, kind of cheesy but I appreciated that they’re trying to do things like this to keep the mood light-hearted during these stressful times. It’s like, every time I start to feel like I’m going to have a heart attack, I remind myself that literally the whole entire world is in this together. Kind of make it seem a little less lonely?

Back to reality: Major mom/son conflict off and on all day. We are basically just siblings fighting control.

Henry came home and immediately started talking to me while I was clearly listening to an audio book so I snapped.

“She does this to me all day,” Chooch said, buddying up to Henry. “I hate Book Mother.”

“I hate Book Mother, too,” Henry mumbled but then Chooch and I reunited in our mutual need for dinner so we both turned on Henry WHO WENT AND DID LAUNDRY INSTEAD so we had to make our own dinner?! Faux-chicken nugs it is.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Henry confirmed that he takes sanitary wipes into the laundromat so that he does not have to touch anything, because I am sure someone is probably side-eyeing up a storm.)

Oh wait back up: before Henry went to do laundry, he first had to take his daily “post-work nap” which lasts forever. While he was up there, I was scrolling through Instagram. My friend Jessy posted a video of her husband cutting down a tree in their yard with a chainsaw. My phone was still connected to the Bluetooth speaker in our bedroom so I let the video play on full blast, promoting a string of “WTF” and “fuck you” texts from Henry. Quarantine entertainment.

While Henry was doing laundry, we found a three-ingredient peanut butter cookie recipe but we didn’t have sugar substitute so Chooch texted Henry and asked him to get some but then proceeded to ignore all of Henry’s texts asking “WHAT KIND OF SUGAR SUB” because he was too engrossed in Minecraft which he has literally been playing since he was like 4 at this point when will it end. So Henry brought home a box of generic Splenda and Chooch and I had to open packet after packet to fill a half cup but halfway through a 1/4 cup, I decided to actually look at the recipe and felt suspiciously like we were doing it wrong – it was the wrong kind of sugar substitute! We needed granulated stuff that sounds like urethra. I forget what it’s called now. Anyway, Henry said to just use less and it would be fine but holy fucking shit Chooch essentially baked Splenda patties with a peanut butter essence. I had two cookies 90 minutes ago and my stomach hurts and I feel like my throat is coated with sweetener please send help, should I swallow fire?

We scream-laughed a lot today. We’re all perched on the lunacy fringe over here. Come visit. Oh wait, you can’t.

Watched the This Is Us season finale and promptly went in the backyard to dig my grave.

This drama premiered tonight in Korea and I hope that it finds its way to Netflix or Viki soon because KIM MYUNG SOO as a CAT? Yes.

‪Auto correct on Duolingo changed “butcher shop” to “bitch ship.” I have little else going on so this is in the running for highlight of the day. ‬

I’m going to bed soon, with the frightening wonder of what food project Chooch will attempt tomorrow.

THURSDAY

Woke up to a new Winner video! I shared it with my team at work, and received approx. zero replies.

I was so fidgety before logging on to work for my late shift that I, get this, CLEANED THE DISH STRAINER in the kitchen. I DID THAT! I don’t think I have ever performed an act of greater domesticity. COVID-19 has broken me.

Don’t worry, the rest of the kitchen is still an absolute pit.

While I was at the sink, I observed that HNC and Slut Life were both in the driveway!! HNC was fiddling around in his garage while Slut Life was preparing to drive out of his garage. I’m not sure if they had any interaction prior to this because I wasn’t paying attention, but I started watching just in time to catch Slut Life peel out of the driveway, causing HNC to stand at the bottom of the driveway, hands akimbo, watching him retreat while shaking his head in disgust.

I started speaking to Chooch in a new, made-up accent. He immediately asked me to stop.

Chooch was watching some video about death row inmates’ last meals and he’s angry for some reason that Timothy McVeigh chose two pints of mint chocolate chip ice cream.

“Why is that so terrible?” I asked.

“He probably got a stomach ache!” Chooch cried.

“He’ll probably be dead before he notices his stomach hurts!” I yelled and so that’s how we fought about mint chocolate chip ice cream.

Yay henry ordered us dinner from Zenith! He said when he went to get it, one of the owners asked, “Do Erin and Chooch have cabin fever yet?” I love that the Zenith people know us haha.

Yeah boi seitan BBQ, rice noodle salad, and pumpkin cake.

Chooch got lasagna and then remembered that he doesn’t like lasagna after he ate nearly the whole thing. Teenagers are fucking dumbos.

OMG Peenlop’s tongue lol.

Well, all hell just broke loose and we had a faux-battle because Chooch wants to make oatmeal raisin cookies and I was like, “But we got cake from Zenith” and he was like “YOU RUIN EVERYTHING” and I was like, “GOOD GOD JUST MAKE YOUR DUMB COOKIES, BITCH BOY” but he was like JUST FORGET IT and started fake-crying so then I went over and we started play-hitting and Drew was like THIS HOUSE IS STRESSFUL and then Henry tripped over the cat tunnel and I almost peed my pants and Henry was like YOU TWO ARE FUCKING ANNOYING and went upstairs to take a nap…at 5:45PM. Cool.

Meanwhile, Chooch the Crybaby is in the kitchen making his stupid cookies because he apparently has awakened a latent baking gene while in COVID-lockdown.

Here’s where we are right now, 7:30PM:

I wish Janna never showed him how to use this lighter!! (Actually, I secretly secondhand learned how to use it then too lol.)

Knife throwing starts next week.

Thursday ended with us watching the first two episodes of the new Kim Myung Soo drama that I posted the trailer for in yesterday’s recap which sent me on a full-blown Infinite video watching spiral (Kim Myung Soo is a member of Infinite when he’s not busy lighting up televisions with his perfect cherub visuals) and then Chooch got super cat-psycho (he gets so annoyingly affectionate with our cat Drew) so we screamed at him to go to bed and you know now that I think about it, aside from Chooch and I being home together during the day for the time being, things are honestly not much different than they were pre-quarantine: it’s still fucking pandemonium here.

FRIDAY

It is 3:07pm and I have almost nothing to report. Today is the blandest of all the other bland days. I spent a lot of time on calls for the first half of the day and that was greatly annoying to Chooch but,  you know, welcome to the world of shared work spaces, pal.

I finished “Lock Every Door” by Riley Sager. It gave me strong “Nightmare on the 13th Floor” vibes, where all of my Made for TV movie fans at!? Holla at me if you remember that one.

Nightmare on the 13th Floor | VHSCollector.com

Meanwhile, Chef Chooch-R-Dee accidentally paid $2 for some vegan recipe app which angered Henry but I was like, “Oh well, start cookin’, buddy.”

During my lunch break, we braved the streets of Brookline so I could mail something. I took tissues with us so that I wouldn’t have to touch the handle of the mail box outside of the post office. It seemed like the few people who were out were practicing safe social distancing measures, except that we saw our nemesis CVS cashier—“1212”—-standing outside of the store talking to someone and there only seemed to be TWO FEET of space between them so that’s cool.

One of the groups I’m a part of had a check-up call today and it was really awkward because we had to take turns talking alphabetically while everyone else stayed muted, so it just felt like I was bombing at open mic night, big time. I’d say something and pause, and of course no one was responding because they were muted, and I was like gulping for air on my end. It was so uncomfortable. In my other group, it’s just like a free-for-all on these calls, lol.

Chooch’s Instagram memories reminded him that on this day two years ago, we were at Everland, an amusement park in South Korea. THANKS, INSTAGRAM. I’m going to wear my Everland headband in honor of that memory.

Henry is home now. Chooch is showing him a recipe from his new $2 app that he wants to make and it requires a “nine-spice mix” and Henry was like “the fuck is that” and it turns out it’s another recipe, so basically a recipe within a recipe, and now Henry is like, “THIS IS TURNING INTO A 5-20-FORTY DOLLAR RECIPE!”

“We have warm water,” Chooch said, reading off the ingredients five minutes later. Literally one of the only ingredients we have, lol. Henry wants to kill him.

Oh! Henry brought home fudge brownie M&Ms which now holds the title for highlight of the day. CAN ANYTHING TAKE THE CROWN? Only time will tell.

Friday afternoon lunacy selfie! One day, Chooch and I will have so many stories to tell about this time while we’re roasting chestnuts over an open fire, preferably in whatever haunted mansion he’s bought me from his math genius career earnings. I’m tired of sitting at this desk, but thankful that that’s pretty much my only complaint right now.

Chooch is revisiting his Shane Dawson obsession so I have heard his big dumb mouth in the background pretty much all week and I am definitely not a fan.

Holy fucking shit, in the last hour, Slut Life has come and gone at least 5x!! Like, he leaves and then returns within 10 minutes – maybe he should just walk!? And it’s so annoying because his bass is SO LOUD in his car and it takes him forever to maneuver the car into the narrow-ass city garage that we have in these houses. I just texted HNC about it. I AM “THAT NEIGHBOR” who watches the neighborhood from the dining room window and I literally do not care. This shit runs in my family. Gimme my binoculars.

(We actually did find binoculars at the living room window when we had to clean out my Pappap’s house. My Aunt Sharon was serious about Neighborhood Watch.)

Logged off work and Chooch and I went across the street for some churchyard Fündopop fun times!

Also!! HNC texted me back and said that he and Slut Life got into it the other day and Slut Life peeled out of the driveway (I witnessed that!!) and he apparently kicked up a chunk of asphalt in the process! HNC is writing a letter to the landlord since calling him didn’t work. He said he mentioned me in the letter. I’m so excited! I get a mention!! No one ever mentions me anymore!!

On that note, I think I will put this weekday roundup to bed. If anything amazing (doubtful) happens between now and the time I go to bed, you best believe I’ll be updating this. But life in isolation is pretty boring, and you know what? THAT’S JUST FINE. I feel, I dunno, blessed to be bored right now, like I should have an embroidery of that hanging in my kitchen or something.

Mar 252020
 

For today’s virtual quarantine road trip, let’s visit the Bavarian Inn in Frankenmuth, Michigan, where our friends Bill and Jessi took us one summer in 2014. I liked it there. Sigh.

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It might seem weird since I’m a vegetarian and all, but what I was most looking forward to in Frankenmuth was eating at one of their famous Bavarian chicken joints. There are two to choose from: Bavarian Inn and Zehnder’s, and they supposedly HATE each other. My friend Michelle told me that the two families basically built Frankenmuth so no matter which place we picked, it would be a big deal.

I mean, if you’re like me and give a shit about these things.

Zehnder’s and the Bavarian Inn really are right across from the street from each other, but there were no picketers or chicken dinner sabotage that I could see. No one was egging each other’s windows or passing out derogatory flyers. But since Roadside America mentions their rivalry, I know it must be true. I just wish it was more blatant and spectator sporty.

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I personally wanted to eat at Bavarian Inn, because it just had more of a Black Forest aesthetic to me, but Bill kept piping up with the merits of Zehnder’s, which just looked like some dumb colonial slab and not at all lederhosen-y. Turns out Bill might have eaten there once sometime in his liftetime and I think he forgot to tell us the part about how a Zehnder’s busboy saved him from choking on their world famous chicken dinner so now he feel indebted to them.

But then Jessi mentioned that she has eaten at the Bavarian Inn before and liked it, so PRAISE JESSI, we settled on the Bavarian Inn because girls rule! There was no blantant anti-Zehnder’s propaganda inside the doors of the BavInn (my new, sweet pet name for it), but I should have at least wrote “for loose bowels, call Zehnder’s” in one of the bathroom stalls. Ah, hindsight.

Fuck you, Zehnder’s.

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I want shutters like that on my imaginary never-house. 

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I anticipated a long wait, since this  seemed like the type of place that was like the Disneyworld of Old Country Buffets* for elderly tourists, but we had a table within 15 minutes!  And even had a scantily-clad Bavarian beefcake entertaining us with an accordion. (I mean, he was showing a lot of thigh and calf, but not a lot of below-knee, because that was covered with a modest swath of wool.)

*BavInn isn’t even a buffet so I have no idea why I wrote that, other than the fact that it’s 150 degrees in my house.

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I told Chooch that this place was going to be like the Hooter’s of Frankenmuth, with Bavarian boobs spilling out of corseted beer garden dresses. Partially because I was trying to get him stoked on eating there (he’s at that age, guys; boobs are everything), and also because that’s what it looked like in my hopes and dreams. Turns out the waitresses’ costumes were way more modest than the accordion player and his scandalous leg-skin.

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There was no cleavage to be had. Not even of the accidental variety.

Back to being a vegetarian: I was pleasantly surprised that the Bavarian Inn had an entire vegetarian menu! Bill said he only asked for it because he overheard someone in front of him asking for it. It wouldn’t have even crossed my mind to ask because places like that usually don’t cater to my kind and I was fully prepared to just get some side dishes but instead I got to have vegan chili and BY GEORGE it was fucking great. It had quinoa and perfect little cubes of sweet potatoes and was just a true delight my tongue even though I can’t imagine a real Bavarian eating that on their lunch break at the cuckoo clock factory.

It didn’t matter, because I still ordered a side of SPAETZEL. You guys, spaetzel. That is my ultimate comfort food because my Pappap, whose family was from Austria, made a huge pot of these buttery Alpine dumplings every Christmas and they were just spectacular. After he died, my mom tried to carry the torch but they just never tasted quite right. And then I asked Henry to make them one year for Thanksgiving but his came out really small and pathetic because he doesn’t have any of the good European regions in his genes, I guess. I  mean, I still ate them of course because anything coated in that much butter is still going to taste rad. But I just haven’t had any as good as my Pappap’s, not since 1995.

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And these noodleturds were by no means bad! Bavarian Inn has their shit together but these were just seasoned in a way that deviated from my Pappap’s spaetzel perfection. I still ate the ever-loving fuck out of them though. Why wouldn’t I?

Can we talk about our amazing waitress Kristi for a minute? Chooch spilled his lemonade all over the table so she swooped in and moved us to a clean table right next to us, all without making Chooch feel like a heel for being a normal 8-year-old who spills things in restaurants. And she brought us copious amounts of this delicious sweet bread (bread that’s sweet, not sweetbreads) which we enjoyed with ridiculously magical homemade strawberry jam. And our lunches were delayed so Kristi also brought us out bowls of German potato salad, coleslaw and something else that I forget now, but it was all perfect and made me want to book a Globus tour ASAP.

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Chooch was really anxious to sayeth Prayers from the Psalms before he ateth his chickeneth. (Everyone at the table got chicken, because duh—Bavarian Inn is world famous for that shit. Maybe one day they’ll be renown for their faux-chicken too. Now I wish I had ordered the fake chicken patty on pretzel bun. Oh well, there’s always next summer when we go back and stay at the Bavarian Inn, because yes, they have a huge resort-y hotel too. WITH WATERSLIDES.)

My second favorite part of the experience (hello: Spaetzel #1) was when I mused out loud about the comfort of the waitresses’ dresses and then a few minutes later, upon Kristi’s return to our table with more iced tea for Henry, Bill asked her what might have been the creepiest thing she had been asked by a man all day:

“Excuse me, but is your dress comfortable?” he asked casually, like he works for Cotton and it’s his job to determine a woman’s comfort as research for the next commercial featuring some random blond actress who can also kind of sing alright.

The Fabric of Our Lives: Dirndl Edition.

“You know,” she said after thinking about it for a few seconds, “it really isn’t too bad. It’s the nylons that drive me nuts, though. I can never wait to get home and peel them off, you know?” And Bill nodded knowingly.

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PSHHHHH. You wish, Zehnder’s. In your dreams.

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This is the back of the glorious Bavarian Inn. Surely there’s a nook or cranny somewhere in which I can live undetected.

You know I must have been stuffed full of spaetzel when I declined dessert, and they obviously had streudel, you guys. Motherfuck, do I love streudel. My grandma’s side of the family always made some sick streudel.

Streudel and spaetzel. These will be served at my pretend wedding. By Bavarian beer maidens, all named Gretchen.

Jesus, is it any wonder I’m a slut for Bavarian things? My childhood memories practically reek of edelweiss.

Mar 232020
 

SATURDAY: a blend of reading books, watching YouTube videos, exercising, eating, fighting. It was a real mixed bag.

In the late morning, Henry and I took a brief walk around the neighborhood – it’s important to still get some air but we still gotta be safe about it so there’s definite strategy and major awareness involved. I was impressed to see that most people we passed were maintaining their distance, but I was HORRIFIED when I witnessed a family of four going into Pitaland–it’s a market so it’s still open because it’s essential, but it is SMALL and gets crowded VERY EASILY. So really? Both parents and two kids all needed to go inside together during a fucking pandemic? What fucking assholes. I bet they didn’t even wash their hands afterward either. Stupid people!

I want to say that I can’t believe there are people out there not taking this seriously, but…my opinion of humanity is not very high.

Henry spent a lot of time working on my huge Seoul Subway wall art over the weekend and I’m so happy about that!

It is going to light up, God willing* and also play the Seoul subway music, which Chooch and I have been obsessed with since our very first subway ride. I need this joy in my life again!

*(I had a friend in high school who would say that. Like, if you were like, “Call me sometime” she would be all “God willing.” I wonder if God is still willing her life or if she took back control?)

Um, then we watched Ready or Not that night, which was so good and I haven’t seen Adam Brody in anything in a good long while and it made me yearn for The OC, ugh he was the best character in both of these.

But fuck, Ready or Not was wonderful. I love horror movies that are also comedic without being an outright spoof or parody.

Image result for ready or not

SUNDAY: I had the dumb idea that we should go out to the “wilderness” for a bit since it was such a nice day. We drove over an hour away to Ohio Pyle, which is in the Laurel Highlands for those of you not from Pennsylvania who maybe feel like looking a map because what else is there to do? WHY NOT LEARN SOME PENNSYLVANIA TOPOGRAPHY*?

*The word “topography” always makes me think of this amazing song:

There’s also a really fantastic version by A Perfect Circle. Shit, I used to love both versions so much. I need someone to hold me now.

OMG Henry remember when I was so obsessed with Jeordie White because of A Perfect Circle and I swear he looked at me at their concert in 2003 and I almost died?!

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I had a journal at the time that had a little spot on the front cover where you could slip in a photo, and I definitely 100% had that picture up there of Jeordie White in it, much to Henry’s delight.

Anyway, Ohio Pyle was a fucking hot spot, man. I don’t think Fayette County understands the concept of social distancing – there were little restaurants/cafes that were open and people were eating at tables outside! In Pittsburgh, all of the restaurants are now take out only during this pandemic, no exceptions! People were walking in groups! I was fucking screaming!

Luckily, once we got to the actual trails, it was way less dense with humanity, thank the fucking lord. We made sure to keep a good distance anytime we had to pass people, which wasn’t often, but I can tell that this is the last time we will attempt to do something like this for quite awhile, my good lord. I saw a guy sneeze! OPENLY! HE JUST…SNEEZED! STRANGERS WERE COMMINGLING ON A PEDESTRIAN BRIDGE!

I honestly thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown.

Log sitting.

As someone who compulsively molests signs and ropes, this warning really made me throw my hands up and retreat in shame.

This was after he pretended to slip and fall off the cliff, which made me scream, “CHOOCH” and promptly succumb to jello-legs. I hate him.

Social distancing over-achiever.

We were mostly alone in the woods, but every so often, I would look behind my shoulder and yelled, “Horde!” and pick up my pace.

“What is this, The Walking Dead?” Henry laughed without mirth. YES, HENRY. IT SURE FEELS LIKE IT. I have never been averse to fellow mankind than I am right now, March of 2020. Get the fuck away from me.

We were obsessed with this jungle-esque little clearing! Then this family came out of nowhere and were practically on our backs, I couldn’t fucking believe it. (Henry said they actually came out of the trail that was CLOSED AND PROTECTED BY THE SIGN THAT IS NOT TO BE MOLESTED.) I started speed-walking in an attempt to lose them and then I tripped and almost fell and Chooch laughed at me and I was like, “Oh OK, you tripped and ACTUALLY FELL ON YOUR FACE 15 minutes ago, at least I goddamn caught myself!” He’s such a little bitch sometimes! IT’S ONLY OK TO LAUGH WHEN HENRY TRIPS, EVERYONE KNOWS THAT.

Which he did, by the way. Trip, I mean. Henry tripped. We all had our turn tripping but Chooch was the only one who fell, hahaha.

Got back in the car to leave and we all bathed in hand sanitizer. (Chooch literally did – he spilled half the bottle on himself because he’s a Big Dumb.)

 

Back at home, Henry made me some dalgona coffee – it was so good, but very strong! Now I want some right now. HENRY!!!!!!!!!!!!

It’s just instant coffee mixed with sugar and maybe something else, I can’t remember. You have to either stir it by hand 400 times or use a mixer for 7 minutes, I think. Then you dollop it onto whatever milk/milk-like substance you prefer. It’s so strong and sweet! My friend Jiyong made it too and we KakaoTalked photos to each other since we can’t meet up during this time. We also chatted about dramas we’re watching so it felt like I had a little bit of normalcy this weekend, I guess.

I ended the night watching another shitty episode of The Walking Dead, which means that it was on in the background while I edited photos and added books to my Goodreads “want to read” list.

And we lost Kenny Rogers. I’ll cap this off with my all time fave K-Rog song, which I had on a cassette and used to play over and over while rollerskating on my front porch when I was like 8 or 9. Sigh.

Mar 222020
 

Since we’re all being responsible and self-isolating (RIGHT? Now is not the time to be deviant and rebellious!), I’ve been revisiting old blog posts and traveling vicariously through Past Erin. Last week, I was reliving Disney World 2016, and Thursday night I was re-reading my totally cringe-y recount of Australia in my 2000 vacation journal. (I was going to transcribe it here on this blog one day for posterity, but after reading it in full that night, I was screamed into a pillow and wailed, “OMG I WAS SO ANNOYING” to which Henry quietly murmured, “You still are.”)

Anyway, then I started reading recaps from our first Korea trip and I wanted to repost this particular day from Gamcheon Culture Village in Busan, because the photos are so colorful and…I just need some joyous memories right now! If you could be anywhere aside from shut into your house right now, where would you choose to be?! Tell me. I’m starving for interaction. Sigh.

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Hello! The following is a collection of photos that we took with the actual camera (as opposed to my phone which is mainly what I used on this trip because CONVENIENCE) at Gamcheon Culture Village on Thursday, March 29th in Busan, Korea.

Gamcheon is considered to be Korea’s Machu Picchu and Korea’s Santorini. It’s also known as the “Lego Village” because of the brightly-colored block-shaped houses. It went from being one of the poorest areas of Busan to a thriving cultural village brimming with boutiques, cafes, and quirky art installations tucked away in the twisting maze of alleys.

Unbeknownst to us, there was something akin to a scavenger hunt that we found out about in the visitor’s center, so we easily spent the whole freaking day here. I’ll get into that more in the next post, where we will do a more in depth exploration of the village! But for now, please enjoy the beautiful colors of this village, and add this place to your bucket list because it was definitely a sight to behold!

The start of our Gamcheon experience, unless you count the long trek up the mountain.

There were so many photo op areas!

Korea loves their poop-themed food. (Also, because I know he’s going to bitch that I put this picture here, Henry’s not actually pregnant in this picture; his shirt was too big and was blowing in the breeze.)

Randyland vibes (but better, because this is Korea. Sorry, Randy).

Yes, I paid 500 won for this picture even though no one was around to know the difference! #respectforkorea

I had a picture similar to this one as my desktop background at work last year and when I got to look out over all these rooftops in person a year later, it felt so surreal. Fight to make your dreams come true, guys.

Oh, thanks for taking this picture, Henry, so that I can show everyone the BACKPACKS YOU MADE US LUG AROUND. Also, that’s Song Joong Ki in that Hite beer ad on the store window. I get so happy every time I saw his face!

Chooch was in novelty photo-posing heaven.

 

 

One of the many break-your-neck alleys. Surprisingly, we only had one close-call with Chooch that day!

 

Ugh, take me back.

I’m going to do this thing where I pretend like I’m a legit blogger instead of someone who writes on their dinky WordPress site using an app on their phone while laying in bed half asleep, and actually give you some FACTS about Gamcheon Culture Village. And by FACTS I mean various tidbits that I have collected from the Internet so that you don’t have to go Googlin’.

  • This area only had around 20 houses pre-Korean War, but then once the war started, Busan became an area of refuge to many Koreans, and the hills of Gamcheon acquired about 4,000 of those refugees. Shanties were erected out of scraps and rock, and Gamcheon became synonymous with poverty and slums.
  • Sometime in the mid-50s, Gamcheon was infiltrated by the Taegukdo religion, the leader of which helped them build up their shanties into better houses. But even as recently as the 90s*, this area was still considered to be the poorest part of Busan.
    • SHUT UP, THE 90s WILL ALWAYS BE LIKE 5 YEARS AGO TO ME.
  • Anyway, in 2009 some Korean tourism organization started panting over it like a mountainous slab of samgyeopsal and came up with the “Dreaming of Machu Picchu” project. Artists and residents teamed up and turned this town into the magical maze of art installations and culture that is now known for today.

GUYS DID I DO GOOD?!

All I knew about Gamcheon prior to visiting is that it’s a must-see in Busan and full of things I like: cafes, pretty views, and quirkiness. But I wondered how Chooch would like this place, since it seemed more geared toward touristy shopping and, you know, walking. When I was a kid, my family would go to Wildwood, NJ for vacation every summer which I loved because hello BEACH AND BOARDWALK. But there was always one day when we would take a daytrip to Cape May because my grandma loved it there and I absolutely hated it because it was so slow-paced and all we did was go in one boutique after the next and I didn’t care about that shit when I knew that there were RIDES WAITING FOR ME back in Wildwood.

Morey’s Piers for lyfe, yo.

But as it turns out, Gamcheon is pretty much a dreamland for people like Chooch who like to have something to work toward, a goal to achieve.

Because what I didn’t know about Gamcheon is that there is a sort of scavenger hunt you can partake in by stopping in the tourist center and getting a map. Hidden around the village are “stamping zones” where you go in with your map and have that certain spot stamped. I became immediately obsessed with this idea too and even backtracked to the entrance of the village because the first stamping location was in a small museum there and we had passed it up!

“We’ve been here for an hour and haven’t made it more than 100 yards yet,” Henry mumbled, because we totally pissed around when we first arrived, getting ice cream, waiting for Henry to find a bank, taking pictures at one of the photo points, waiting for Henry to find a map, buying dried flower tea from some old lady selling them next to her house, chasing a cat down an alley, waiting for Henry to stop yelling at us, buying postcards, and stopping at the Gamnae Cafe:

 

RUNNING MAN HAS BEEN THERE!!

I got a sweet potato latte and cherished every last drop of it while we kicked back and wrote out some postcards which sadly wouldn’t be mailed until we got back to Pittsburgh because we forgot to look for post offices in Busan and then the post offices in Seoul are closed on Saturdays! So, I was that totally That Person, sending international post cards from a post office five blocks away from my house in dumb Pittsburgh. Lame.

I know, I posted like ten rooftop shots in my last post about Gamcheon, but I was just so enamored by the colors!

 

 

 

 

 

In case anyone was wondering what Janna’s favorite picture of our vacation is, it’s this one. SHE TOLD ME SO ON INSTAGRAM AND ALSO IN REAL LIFE.

 

This is a really good example of what a lot of the alleys are like in Gamcheon. It was a breeding ground for sprained ankles. Surprisingly enough, Chooch only fell once, and it was UP a set of steps, thank god. I get jello-legs just thinking about him walking on steps, if we’re being honest.

One of my favorite things about Gamcheon is that you would find yourself wandering off the main road, into an alley full of residences* and then suddenly here’s a random room housing a confusing art installation. Mattress Factory vibes, for real, and you all know how much I love the Mattress Factory! This place was like walking through an artist’s dreamscape and I felt like a little kid again, all excited about what was going to appear next.

*(We were literally walking right open doors of peoples’ houses — there were signs posted everywhere reminding visitors that people do actually reside here and to be respectful and quiet; Chooch and I managed to keep our giddy braying to a minimum.)

Chooch loves posing for pictures on his own terms and this town provided him with so many opportunities! You think this post has a ton of pictures? You should see how many I didn’t post.

Before you raise hell about rude Americans being vandals, writing messages of peace on the wall of this little room was encouraged and markers were even provided! It was one of the hidden gallery-type spaces that we stumbled upon thanks to the map. (Finally, Henry got a map that worked.)

This room scared the shit out of me because those hands are motion-sensored and started clacking away when we walked in!

Imagine coming home drunk, though.

 

This is a picture of me with art in the back. In case you didn’t know.

Chooch’s review: “I really liked it there! I feel like it was my favorite place in Busan. My favorite part was following the map because it took us to really cool places like when we went through alleys and saw all of the cats and the scary motion-sensor typing thing. And ‘Henry’ couldn’t effing take it seriously and kept saying ‘shut up people live here’ and I was like ‘eff off mate.'”

We strongly considered visiting. Henry (and his lack of map-reading skills) was tearing us apart! But for the most part, our afternoon in Gamcheon was a good one…

…because Chooch was in control of the map. Henry didn’t know what to do with himself!

We made friends with two cute girls from Shanghai here after they asked me to take their picture. Henry thought it was SO FUNNY that everyday, someone was asking me to take their picture. I was once told I was stand-offish but clearly I’m not anymore. :/

 

 

Chooch was in his glory.

 

고양이! 
We followed this cat around for awhile and it was just the cutest thing ever and I want 
a Korean cat!!

 

I was obsessed with getting to this particular art installation because I had seen videos of it and Chooch was getting so annoyed with me because I kept trying to grab the map from him to see how close we were/if we missed it/if it even really existed. Finally we found it and he was like, “here’s your precious house thing” and I was convinced that it wasn’t it because it wasn’t moving and here that’s because IT WAS BROKEN.

Oh, I was so sad. But yeah, there’s a crank and if you turn it, the roofs will lift up and down.

 

This was inside a small market where we got the second to last stamp.

 

Cheetos chicken endorsed by Wanna One!

We made it all the way to end of the longest path in about 2 hours, I would say, and it was totally worth it. The weather was perfect that day and the town wasn’t over-saturated with tourists. Most of the time, it felt like we had the whole town to ourselves once we ventured away from the entrance. I suspect most of the people there that day eschewed the scavenger hunt portion of the Gamcheon experience. Their loss! This was such a highlight of the whole trip for me!

Anyway, once we made it to the bottom / end of the maze, we tortured ourselves by WALKING BACK UP TO THE ENTRANCE because we needed to catch that shuttle bus thing to take us back down the other side where the subway station was. It wasn’t so bad though because we just followed the main street back up to the top.

When Henry went inside the tourist center to inquire about the bus, Chooch slyly slid his completed, fully-stamped map on the counter and cleared his throat until the person working there noticed and gave him his reward of two free postcards.

Then we got street food!

I FINALLY GOT SSIAT HOTTEOK! So, “Ssi” means “seed” in Korean, and these Busan-specialty hotteok are prepared much like traditional Korean hotteok but THEN THEY ARE SLICED OPEN AND FILLED WITH A GENEROUS SCOOP OF SEEDS (pine, pumpkin and sunflower seeds). I had to wait quite a while for one because the ahjumma ahead of me had ordered like 10 of them. I really liked this lady a lot because some tourists tried to cut in front of me while I was waiting for my turn to order and she quickly scolded them. Then a group of school boys around Chooch’s age came walking by, as school was just letting out, and they very cheerfully and respectfully greeted her because she must be a popular fixture around Gamcheon, and I got so much joy out of listening to their interaction. She seemed like such a great lady!

And then finally, my ssiat hotteok was handed to me, piping hot in a paper cup, and I thought my eyes were going to roll back into my head. IT WAS SO GOOD. I wish I could hand them out to everyone reading this right now who has never experienced the tongue-burning glory that is hotteok. You can typically find them in the freezer section of your local Asian market but brother there is nothing better than being served one sizzling hot off a griddle-thing in Korea.

I probably ate more hotteok than anything else while we were there, now that I think about it.

Afterward, we caught the small bus at the entrance and survived a harrowing, careening recreation of a scene from Speed down the mountain. The bus was full so we had to stand and Chooch almost wound up in the laps of numerous ahjumma and at first I was annoyed by the driver’s recklessness until I caught a glimpse of him in the mirror and HE WAS SO FUCKING YOUNG AND CUTE.

And then we took the subway back to Busan Station, where we took the short walk to our hotel for the night. Thank you for reading my fake travel blog.

Mar 202020
 

MONDAY

Made Chooch exercise first thing in the morning. This isn’t vacation! I picked a workout that was annoyingly strenuous though and I don’t like hard workouts in the AM, so I guess the joke’s actually on me.

Chooch started watching some stupid show on Netflix called On the Block. I hate it.

The school is handing out Grab-n-Go lunches for the students. Chooch was like, “Thank god” and went to get one but I was like WHAT ABOUT MEEEEE?! Much to his chagrin, they were also passing out assignment packets, so now he has legit work to do, which made my PROFESSOR MOMMY’S ASSIGNMENT LIST backfire. :( He still wrote about bibimbap though because he could see how sad I was that my Thinking Chores don’t matter now.

At one point, I realized I hadn’t seen him in a while so I started screaming his name. He called back from his bedroom so I was like, “OH NO, YOU ARE NOT GOING TO SPEND ALL AFTERNOON LAYING IN BED WATCHING TV” but when I went up there, I found him sitting in a chair with a book. “You told me to read a book so I’m reading a book. ‘Mandatory reading time,’ remember?”

Oh yeah, I did say that.

So far, isolation was *shrug* because I work from home at least one day a week anyway, but WE’LL SEE HOW LONG THE NOVELTY LASTS. Adding a smart-mouthed teenager to the package really adds a new layer, though. But at least he doesn’t expect me to do things for him. I mean, he’s known me for 13 years now and is quite aware of what I am and am not capable of.

TUESDAY

I forced Chooch  to start the day with 20 minutes of K-pop cardio! He actually kind of put forth a bit of effort.

Chooch wishes he knew how to hard-boil eggs. “Same,” I say. Later, Henry comes home from work and points out that we already had hardboiled eggs in the fridge. We did not know.

Henry came home from work and we mauled him. WE’RE HUNGRY! FEED US! we cried.

Jesus, it’s only day 2, he sighed.

On my break, we walked to the library so I could dump some books off into the return thing BUT IT WAS LOCKED – originally, they were still going to accept book returns during  the isolation period, but I guess they changed their mind and there was a sign that says to just hold on to your materials until they reopen, ughhh I was hoping that at least one tiny part of my beloved library process would still be intact.

Don’t worry, we maintained social distance on our walk to the library, touched nothing, talked to no one, entered no store. Came home and scrubbed our hand-flesh off.

  • That’s too loud.
  • What are you watching, that’s dumb.
  • Shut up, I’m on a call.
  • Turn that down.
  • Shut up, I’m in a meeting.
  • Go watch a documentary.
  • Shut up, I’m in a training.
  • Mandatory reading time!

— Chooch’s compendium of things I yelled today, apparently, recited back to me in A TONE THAT WAS NOT A FAIR REPRESENTATION OF HOW I TALK, THANKS.

Saw an Instagram ad over the weekend for fire blankets and panicked that we might need those so I made Henry buy two. Instagram ads is the QVC for the next generation. Today they arrived. I didn’t even open the box because the excitement had already worn off.

WEDNESDAY

Chooch is letting me use his fancy gaming headphones for when I have to call into meetings, except that I found out the hard way that the mic doesn’t work. I emailed the Help Desk and they responded with instructions that were more than 2 steps so I replied, “That is too complicated. I will just continue to call in using my cell phone.”

Some group emails are going around because people apparently miss each other. I mean, I guess I miss some people but I’m perfectly fine in my covid-less cocoon at home, thanks.

Chooch chose the Zac Efron Ted Bundy movie as his choice of documentary when I urged him to watch something educational. I mean, that probably counts, right?

Then the Census came in the mail!

So far the most exciting part of isolation was cracking up with Chooch while trying to find what best describes Henry’s relation to me. We are deep in the throes of cabin fever slap-happiness. Check back tomorrow when we’ve surely resorted to acute psychological torture for fun. We ended up selecting “opposite-sex unmarried partner” in the end because I was afraid of going to jail, also one time before I started working at The Law Firm, I tried to get a job with the census and I had to take a test in the basement of the library but I guess I failed because they never called me back. I mean, it DID have word problems on it.

Why, tho.

THURSDAY

Chooch, at 8;50am: Don’t you have to start working soon?

Me, from the couch: Yes.

Chooch: Are you already logged on?

Me: Yes.

Chooch, in a parental tone: Oh OK, I was just making sure you’re ready.

NO HE WASN’T. HE WAS JUST HOPING HE COULD USE THE COMPUTER.

Chooch and I had a play-fight with an empty water bottle, still made less noise than Blake’s crying kids next door.  Our cat Penelope has basically stopped coming downstairs now because we’re here all the time and she hates it.

Had to call in to a short meeting using my cell phone on speaker. “Holy shit that was boring,” Chooch said from the living room when I disconnected. YES, I KNOW. THIS IS MY LIFE.

Around 5:00, Henry left to go and pick up our dinner from Onion Maiden because we wanted to try and be supportive I guess, saints that we are. I was still working so I was sitting at the computer for a good 5 minutes talking to Chooch only to find out from his silence that he went with Henry.

While they were gone, a cop car went flying past the house with the sirens on and then a police helicopter circled overhead for approx. 10 minutes. That combined with the coronavirus really gave me that nice “end of the world” sensation.

 

War Pig with cashew cheese and jalapeños, and Crucifier Rising dumplings. Chooch got the Kimmy Gimmler (comes with kimchi yessss) and the Bunn O))).

I love Onion Maiden but I don’t eat there very often for some reason that probably involves the fact that I don’t eat out at all very often because I’m pretty sure I have some type of eating disorder.

Henry wasn’t allowed to sit on the floor with us because he had meat. He was like WHATEVER I CANT SIT ON THE FLOOR ANYWAY and then that made me think of my birthday lunch at a traditional Buddhist restaurant in Seoul where Henry almost couldn’t get up after sitting on the floor and now I am so fucking sad. I miss you, Korea. Hopefully this pandemic ends someday and I can go back.

Chooch and I also shared a piece of Terrormisu. What a nice little quarantine picnic!

7:46pm: Chooch just chased me around the house, throwing an old spare key at me and I ran to Henry for help but he’s half-asleep in bed and mumbled for us to separate. Then Chooch laughed too hard and almost threw up on Henry.

It’s a…real haven up in here.

FRIDAY

“Chooch, we’re going to make bread today.”

“……without HIM?” (HIM = Henry, clearly.)

“Yes! Someone posted recipes on Twitter. It looks easy.”

“Well, THAT’S something I can tell I’ll be quoting you on for the rest of my life.”

OK, scratch that idea. I just went back to the recipe I saw on Twitter and realized that there was way more to it than just this:

Apparently, the rest of the recipe was in the comments. It’s involved. Do we have baking powder? What is kosher salt? Something about sitting in a greased bowl for 30-60 minutes? I’ll pass.

In good, non-COVID news, Taemin has black hair again! Also, I really wish I was going through this pandemic hell in S. Korea, not the fucking dumb US. God, can we screw this up anymore? FORGET I ASKED THAT. DO NOT HOLD ANYONE’S BEER. GET BACK INTO ISOLATION.

UPDATE, 12:09:

Chooch is making the bread on his own. Where the fuck is the baking powder, he asked, gesturing to the open cupboard full of UNLABELED CONTAINERS OF WHITE POWERS.

‘This could all be cocaine for all we know!” I cried. Now Henry is on speaker phone. He is very unhappy about how this Friday is progressing.

Apparently the baking powder is in a plastic container that says “baking powder.” I would have hung up on Henry’s ass by now.

OMG IF I HEAR “BAKING POWDER’ ONE MORE TIME. This call has dragged on for like 11 minutes. Henry just yelled, “I have to go! I don’t have time for this!”

Lol, I found the baking powder immediately  and now Chooch is mad. He dropped the butter on the ground so I told him  to just wash it off but then we both looked at it and I said, “Um, just throw it out.” Then we fucked up because I dumped all the water in at once, before Chooch had a chance to “mix the dry ingredients” and then apparently even the the water was supposed to be added gradually? Why? It’s all going to end up in the same place eventually anyway?

I feel like we made some progress because after stirring it for a but, it resembles real life dough! I got bored though so now Chooch is doing the rest alone.

12:44PM This might go down as the worst idea ever. The dough is like melted paste – is this right!?

The recipe never told us what to do with the butter. We used our collective noggins to assume that it was for greasing the bowl, so then Chooch made me wash out the Pam that I had originally (handsomely) spritzed it with. We are now letting the dough sit for 30-60 minutes. Is it going to expand into a carb-loaded Jabba the Hut and suffocate us? TIME WILL TELL.

1:50PM: Time to cook this gooey blob! I just noticed that the recipe on Twitter said to HEAT A GRIDDLE. THE FUCK? I was like “Can’t we just use the oven?” and Chooch was like I don’t know so I was scrolling through the Twitter comments and I said, “Oh look! This person asked, ‘Can I use an oven'” and Chooch goes, “Yeah that was me. That was LITERALLY ME.”

I have a headache.

Good thing we have those fire blankets.

YOU GUYS I’m positive we didn’t make these as intended but, against all odds, they taste fucking delicious. The first one came out the most normal looking. The rest are like, dough scraps but still delicious.

We made a penis-shaped one for Henry!

A half hour later, I glanced in the kitchen. “I guess we should just leave this for him to clean up?” And then Chooch and I scream-laughed our faces off. I think we’ve reached peak isolation. It has to be all downhill from here.

Oh wait, but then Henry told me that he ripped his pants today and didn’t realize it until he went back to the office and one of his coworkers said, “Nice underwear.” Yes, this is my favorite part of today’s isolation.

In case you were wondering if beverage deliverymen are essential during a pandemic, that would be a yes. Henry still has to work and his skin is basically burning off his hands from manic-application of hand sanitizer.

5:00PM: Henry just came home and is so mad. “I’m not cleaning that!” he yelled, but now he’s in there cleaning it. Chooch let the “dough” dry on the rolling pin and Henry is very upset about this. Also, he tried the bread and threw it back on the plate. Chooch and I were so insulted, but then I took a bite, and you know, now that they’ve been laying there for a few hours, I can tell that um, these actually aren’t fully cooked, lol. It’s pretty raw, is that why my stomach hurts do you think?

Chooch reminded me that there wasn’t egg in it at least.

I doubt anything exciting will happen for the rest of the evening. My plans are:

  • cereal for dinner
  • exercise
  • read
  • watch “Kingdom”

If anything noteworthy goes down, I will update this!

Mar 192020
 

THE WINDOW” 

Hound at my window

Barking at the passersby

Comfortable he sits

Image result for dog at window

THE DOG PARK”

Arlie Dog Park sits

Filled with dogs on the daily

How I wish to go

Image result for DOG PARK WITH MANY DOGS

“THE MAILMAN”

Charlie sits right there

On the mat by the front door

For that darned mailman

Image result for dog at door waiting for mailman

“UNTITLED”

Petrified and scared

Standoff with outdoor rodents

SQUIRREL! SQUIRREL! SQUIRREL! SQUIRREL! SQUIRREL!

Image result for dog staring at squirrel

“BELLY RUBS”

I lay belly-up

Hoping for Master to come

I need belly rubs

Image result for dog waiting for belly rubs

 

Mar 182020
 

Well, weekends sure do look different, huh? Actually, mine still looks about the same because I’ve been practicing social distancing for the last decade haha. I already talked about my Saturday, which included hoarding books from two libraries, but here are some pictures from other parts of the week’s end, because what else do you have going on right now? Sigh.

Henry and I got some to-go coffee from Muddy Cup. They have a slew of St. Patrick’s-inspired specialty lattes on their menu right now so I’m glad I got to grab one before COVID-19 has them temporarily shuttered.

Henry made me a plate of banchan (Korean side dishes) for lunch, so that was nice.

Henry was scrubbing vegetables in the kitchen like a good apocalypse-preparing housewife, but then he only made enough for dinner that night so Chooch and I have been left to fend for ourselves during the week, after all.

Then we went for a walk in Allegheny Cemetery. Quite a few people were out, but we maintained our distance. At one point, an entire crowd of people (?!!?) started shambling in our direction, so we took a different path to avoid walking past them, and it felt exciting, like we were actively fleeing from zombies.

Yeah, we laugh now….

Drew slept on the wheelchair, clutching her little toy donut, and oh, how I wish to be a cat right now.

All our cats know is that their peoples are home more now. I can’t tell if they like that or not though.

When in isolation: mandatory reading time!

I guess next weekend we will try to get out and do more nature-y things if weather permits. But as of now, it’s nice to have less distractions from all the DIY projects I have on Henry’s agenda, like the giant Seoul subway map that will eventually be on the wall above the couch (hopefully).

Other things, not pictured: The new season of Kingdom is out, just in time! Prior to that, I had been catching up on the latest episodes of The Walking Dead but I swear to Good Glenn’s Dangling Eyeball, that show pisses me off so much. Every time it reels me back in with a decent story arc, it loses me again with shitty characters (Alpha may be the WORST villain on any show ever) and boring episodes of nothingness. (That episode where they were in the cave made me so angry.) I think the only character I care about anymore is Judith, which is hilar to me because all those seasons when she was just a pointless baby, I was always screaming, “JUST DUMP THAT LUMP AND RUN!” Anyway, all of this is to say that I’m glad to have a good, solid zombie drama back in my life. 킹덤 감사합니다!

Wow, these blog posts are only going to get more boring over the next coming days, lol.

 

Mar 162020
 

Hi, it’s me. Erin. Since Pennsylvania schools are temporarily closed due to COVID-19, I gave Chooch some writing assignments because I’ll be damned if his mind is going to subsist on YouTube videos and Switch games during this time. But then the school provided assignment packets so I guess I’ll lighten up a bit. Today, he has written about his favorite Korean dish, bibimbap, and he actually didn’t complain!

Bibimbap (비빔밥). Where do I even start. The Korean dish filled with crispy rice, sauteed vegetables, meat, or meat substitute, gochujang, sesame oil, and the best part, in my opinion, the egg. Bibimbap, in Korean, means: bibim: mixed together; bap: rice.

Well, I guess we can start off with a little history lesson. It is estimated that bibimbap was created in the 10th century in the Koryo dynasty by the wives of farmers who were just too busy to serve a large traditional Korean meal. Now in present day Korea, many families eat this common dish by using leftovers and mixing it together to create this fantastic meal.

Now, I have had many bibimbaps, but the best one I ever had had to be the one we had on our tour to the DMZ, or demilitarized zone. I don’t know why I loved it so much. It could have been the crispy rice, or the just perfect egg, or maybe even the delectable seaweed. Whatever it was made it very easy for me to just devour the whole Dolsot bowl.

There are many kinds of bibimbap, but the two most common are bibimbap and Dolsot bibimbap. Bibimbap is served at room temperature, while Dolsot is served in a hot pot keeping it nice and crispy while you eat it. It also differs from the region you are in, for example in Busan, we got to crack our own egg into our bibimbap and it also wasn’t served with gochujang (spicy red pepper paste).

We also had another kind of bibimbap in Jeonju, or the hometown of bibimbap. The one I had was basically just the original bibimbap, but with cheese melting on the top. I thought it was very good, because prior to my consumption of it, I was totally hangry. There is a trick to eating the Dolsot bibimbap, though. If you stir the vegetables, but keep the rice at the bottom, the rice will be crispy by the time you eat all the vegetables and it will taste 200% better, or if you add gochujang it starts to taste otherworldly.

Here I am eating bibimbap on my last day in Korea, so sad. ;-;

I did like every bibimbap I had in Korea, don’t get me wrong, but nothing compares to the DMZ one. So, if I were to make a bibimbap, I would choose Maanchi’s recipe,

But, without the meat!

Mar 142020
 

Hello from Brookline. So far, there have been no reports of anyone testing positive with coronavirus in my neighborhood, big it was announced last Thursday that a student at Chooch’s school may have been exposed to it from a relative who had traveled out of state, so his school, along with 4 other schools in Pittsburgh, were closed yesterday as a precaution and so the schools could employ “electro-magnetic” sterilization, which sounds super space-y.

But then on Friday, the governor announced that all PA schools will be closed for at least two weeks, at which point they will reassess the situation. Chooch, being a kid, is excited because it’s like a snow day on steroids, except that some of us could die, but that’s OK: live it up, kids.

Because of this, our director at work gave us permission to work from home, so when Chooch found THAT out, the desirability of staying home from school was suddenly tainted, lol. MOMMY AND CHOOCH TIME. I’m going to make sure he has designated blocks of reading time, he’s going to do writing assignments, and he’s also going to watch some documentaries.

(“I’m watching one on Ted Bundy, then,” he said today, and that’s fine. He can help me design some new cards afterward.)

So it’s kind of like being quarantined, but not. Henry still has to go to work, but I am happy that I won’t need to be taking public transportation now during such uncertain, unclean times.

Then I got an email from the library, saying that after today, they are going to be shutting down until the 31st. I figured this was coming because Chooch was there on Friday and the entire children’s area was closed off, and that’s where he and his friend Markie have to go to use the computers because Markie isn’t 13 yet so he can’t use the ones upstairs. So last night, I frantically made a list of some of the books on my Goodreads “want to read” list that are available at the local branch of my library, leapt out of bed at 8am, got showered and dressed, only to remember that the dumb library doesn’t open until 10, ugh.

Anyway, I got there right at 10 and Chooch and I put on gloves that were available on a cart of sterilization products, and I acted like all those preppers hoarding toilet paper, except instead of Charmin, I had an armful of fiction.

I checked out 7 books, plus I still have 4 already checked out, so I’m hoping this will tide me over! Especially since I will have extra free time on Saturdays for a bit because Jiyong suggested that we hold off on meeting up for now, considering we meet in a perpetually-crowded Panera. Paneras are gross enough without a pandemic in the midst. Henry said he will help me practice my vocabulary though which scares me but we’ll see; maybe he will actually help.

But he will probably fall asleep.

Don’t judge me by YA/Teen Fiction selections, OK! Sometimes I like having something light to fall back on after reading something especially scary or ultra-literary.

I hope everyone’s staying safe, smart, and healthy out there and don’t forget to check in on your elders. It’s fucking scary, but we will get through this if everyone takes it seriously and stops doing selfish things.*

*(For instance, all of those idiot YouTube travel vloggers are still out there traveling for content and it makes me so angry. Especially when I see them getting all combative and responding to coronavirus-related comments with snarky slapbacks like “We’re healthy and not worried about dying from it but you do you #thumbsupemoji” NOPE. NOPE NOPE NOPE. That’s exactly what I was saying too A MONTH AGO when we started to consider postponing our trip that’s scheduled for April, except that MY sentence had a “but”: “…but I don’t want to risk contracting the virus and spreading it to those who are weaker/older/more susceptible than me, just because I wanted to go to some amusement parks and have fun.” That is the part that not everyone is grasping. We will go another time. Right now, the most important thing is to stay sanitary and informed. Fuck those people.)

UPDATE! I remembered that another library exists within walking distance so I ran down there and expanded my pile. Look, I can’t request books during this time so I need to be prepared! Worst case scenario, I start pulling from Chooch’s bookshelf. Minecraft 101, oh boy.

Mar 122020
 

I’m trying to support Asian establishments as much as possible since this pandemic has stoked the racism fire. Yesterday, I restocked my snack pumpkin at Lotus Foods then got coffee at Bae Bae’s Cafe, and tonight we ordered dinner from Tong Garden.

This was my fortune, which is SO APROPOS it makes my stomach hurt.

I keep thinking that someday this will hopefully be a distant memory, a chapter in an upcoming Trump Sucks biography, a segment from VH1’s I Love the 20s that makes us groan, maybe even something that WE CAN LEARN FROM?! One day there will be a list of Worst Coronavirus Responses and the good ol’ bull-headed USA will be right at the top.