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 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!

Jan 232020
 

It’s tradition for Janna, Chooch and me to go out for lunch on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, if only doing this once prior counts as “tradition.” We’ve already started this tradition with a strangely volatile track record, because last year I chose a restaurant that was extremely crowded with awkward seating, so we left after being seated at a crowded counter, and then ended up having another awkward seating experience at the ramen place we chose as our fall-back.

But then we had a great time at a post-lunch cafe (Black Forge, holla!) so that made it seem, in our memories, that we should do it again this year. I guess kind of like how some women forget the horrors of pregnancy/child birth and do it again.

This time, it was Janna’s turn to choose an uncomfortable eating establishment!

First though, the day started on a high when Janna got yelled at in the parking lot across from my house for allegedly thieving Hot Naybor Chris’s wife’s parking spot. Janna had to swear that she’s not a weirdo after HNC’s wife ranted about all the weirdos in the neighborhood and swore she didn’t realize it was someone else’s spot (newsflash: none of us have our own assigned parking spots, so…).

“Wow, she’s very shrill,” Janna laughed when she walked into my house and Chooch and I were dying. We wanted her to get beaten, but verbal abuse is just as good!

We immediately set off for Ineffable Cà Phê which I’ve wanted to try for awhile, but anytime we’ve been in the area, it’s always looks very crowded. Well, today was no different and it didn’t help that we arrived right smack in the middle of noon.

Maybe I’m just FUCKING OLD, but I really dislike places that force you to order at a counter. I get that this is also a cafe, but perhaps separate the two areas, I dunno, because the menus were all split up in different spots and by the time it was our turn to order, I was teetering on the tip of a tantrum and blurted out, “I’LL HAVE THE SAME AS HIM” and nudged Chooch, even though I didn’t know what he ordered because every time I asked him, he ignored me.

Then the real fun began—looking for a place to sit. Again, this is a cafe that also serves food (and some of  the food is pho, so…not exactly something you can casually eat while standing. I was having ANXIETY by this point because we were just standing there, lost, in everyone’s way, looking for a place that could seat three people, but because THIS IS ALSO A CAFE, 90% of the seats were occupied by people who were not eating, but staring at their laptops with dead eyes.

Booths? People working.

Shared tables? Full of lazy hipsters and surrounded by a moat of coiled laptop cords on the floor, which I almost tripped over numerous times.

It was absolutely trash as far as comfort levels went.

We finally settled on an armchair (which White Knight Jr, a/k/a Chooch, argued was “very comfortable” and he was “just fine”) and a couch in the corner, with some extremely enlarged spool-thing to use as a table. It was SO FUCKING UNCOMFORTABLE. The couch was so low to the ground and I had to bend in half every time I took a bite of my tofu banh mi (good choice, Chooch), so I guess at least I was getting an ab workout, I dunno.

It was so bad that while we were waiting for our food, Janna could see Mt.Erinsuvius getting ready to erupt and suggested that we just get our food to go, save it for dinner, and then go somewhere for lunch.

NOT AFTER I JUST THREW DOWN $20 ON TWO SANDWICHES (AND NO DRINKS!!).

Luckily for this damn place, the banh mi was really good. It’s so hard to find GOOD TOFU on sandwiches, and theirs had a really great marinade to it. I approved. So did Chooch, who was blessedly silent while inhaling his lunch.

The worst part about this though was that I had to go to the counter and retrieve both sandwiches after my name was called, and it was a veritable slalom course of laptop cords and backpacks but I persevered all while muttering, “Don’t look at me. Don’t look at me.”

When Janna’s was ready, the guy was like, “I will bring it to you” because she got pho and she still walked over and kept trying to take it from him and he was like, “I WILL BRING IT TO YOU” and Chooch and I were dying. Finally, something good was happening! Then he gave Janna a sauce recommendation but she of course didn’t pay attention, so when he left, she was like, “What did he tell me to do?” and I was like, “Mix the sriracha and hoison.” As she embarked on the  treacherous journey to the counter to fetch said sauces, Chooch was like, “Oh, I thought you said sriracha and POISON and I was like ‘Yes, we’re killing Janna!'” Hahaha.

Actually, once we got our food and established ourselves in the corner which was DEFINITELY meant for relaxing with a book and coffee, not hunched over a lunch you’re trying not to spill, it was OK. Would I go back? I AM NOT SURE. Maybe I’d get it to go, but I can’t foresee myself ever attempting to dine in there again unless I get there immediately when it opens or like, right after a kitchen fire,  idk.

However, there was one super positive aspect about this place, and that was when we stumbled on  the adjacent boutique on the way out. It’s just a tiny little nook in the corner of the cafe but just secluded enough so you feel like you’re in another space altogether, and it’s run by a super lovely lady who chatted us up but not in the sense where I was trying to peel my skin off and lift it up over my head to form a nice bloody flesh tent under which to camp out with my social inadequacies.

She was SO LOVELY that Chooch was like, “I WANT ONE OF HER CANDLES.” They were all very earthly, masculine smells, er, scents, which I appreciate in a candle from time to time; one can only have so many pumpkin spices and clean cotton fragrances in the house, you know?

The special thing about her candles is that you can DIP YOUR FINGERS INTO THE HOT WAX, which is like every kids’ and my dream, and then RUB IT INTO YOUR SKIN BECAUSE IT DOUBLES AS ESSENTIAL OIL.

Brilliant. Yes, let me buy one of those.

It took Chooch forever to choose a scent (black currant is what he ultimately went for?!) and then Janna had to copy us and buy one too but when the lady asked her for her email address, Janna rattled off something I’ve never heard before, so I yelled, “HEY I DON’T KNOW ABOUT THAT EMAIL ADDRESS!” and it was quiet for a second while the lady’s eyeballs looked like they were watching a scary tennis match, but then Janna just nervously laughed it off so then the lady laughed too but I WASNT LAUGHING.

Meanwhile, there was a dog behind the counter but Chooch wasn’t able to reach it so he was terribly upset about that.

THEN WE WENT DOWNTOWN. I started laughing when I realized that it was exactly 2::00pm, which is what time I would normally be ambling about down there on a regular workday. First, we stopped at this art installation thing because Pittsburgh sometimes tries to hang with the Big City Kids by doing artsy things for people to either enjoy, scrutinize, or vandalize. I walk past this every day but have never bothered to stop and explore, so I was happy that we parked literally on the same block as it.

It was pretty cold that day but not as cold as it was last year when we did out MLK outing, because I think it was like 10 degrees that day. If you ask Mr. I Never Get Cold, he’ll tell you that both days weren’t cold at all. I hate him sometimes.

IF YOU LOOK, YOU CAN SEE ALL THREE OF US OMG.

I’m like way good at posing.

AnywaySSSS, the reason we were downtown is because Bae Bae’s Kitchen opened a brand new cafe down the street called, well, Bae Bae’s Cafe. I’ve been stalking it for months on my daily lunch break walks and was excited to get there on their second day! (I feel like the first opening day would have been stuffed to the gills with influencers and the like, so…no thanks.)

Chooch and I are both avid boba fans, so I got a taro and he chose earl gray which I thought was an odd choice for him and turns out he ended up thinking the same once he sipped it. He added some cane sugar to it after awhile and then deemed it drinkable.

This is DEFINITELY an Instagram-cafe. That’s not to take away from their drinks which are wonderful; they also serve lunch items but we had already done that so I ordered chocolate chip cookies for us to share and they were REALLY DELICIOUS. Like 진짜 맛있어요!

(Bae Bae’s is Korean, yo.)

So, the seating is pretty non-existent here, which was hilarious to us because all we wanted to do was be able to sit together today while eating and drinking?! Like, I can’t think of many more basic wants, you know? But this space is pretty small so probably prepare to pop in and pop out if you go on a busy day. As it turned out, Janna had to sit by herself and then when she left her seat to go to the counter to get her drink, some asshole stole her seat! AND THE GUY HE WAS WITH WHO WAS ALREADY SITTING ACROSS FROM WHERE JANNA HAD BEEN SAID NOTHING!

To be fair, either did Chooch or I. Chooch was just like, “LOL, Janna lost her seat” and then continued slurping up boba.

My bedroom is almost this same color and now I know that UMERELLA-ELLA-ELLAS ON THE CEILING is what it’s been missing. Get on that, Henry.

The guy on the couch is the d-bag who stole Janna’s seat, but then he moved to the couch once it became available, so Janna got her seat back. Damn. Anyway, these guys were v.annoying.

It’s a very elegant and, to use a word people hate, no not moist: WHIMSICAL. I personally liked it because it gave off Wonderland vibes and that’s my jam. My favorite Alice In Wonderland is  the version that as Carol Channing and Ann Jillian in it, in case you were wondering. I think it’s from the early 80s.

Seriously,  the best. Followed by that weirdo Jan Svankmajer stop-motion film “Alice.” Horrifying.

Janna Sits Alone.

Anyway, the best part of the day was that the proprietor of the Bae Bae’s empire, Ashley, was there and she came over to talk to Chooch and me and she took our picture for the cafe’s Instagram story! She also said I looked very familiar to her and I was like, “Oh god, am I on some Koreaboo list?!” Like Megan’s List but for Koreans to watch out for people obsessed with their culture. But it turns out she just recognized me from all the times I’ve cupped my hands next to my face and peeked in the cafe’s windows JUST KIDDING she said she thinks I looked familiar because I follow Bae Bae’s on Instagram. To be honest, I rarely go to Bae Bae’s Kitchen even though it’s right near my office because:

  • it’s kind of expensive
  • it sits super heavily in my stomach (BUT IT’S SO GOOD)
  • I don’t want to be a creep

We tried to stay as long as we could because there were three “super hip” Modcloth chicks hogging the best seat in the house and I wanted to get pictures there too but they came with A CAMERA, like a real DSLR, and just when I thought they were getting ready to leave, one of them went back up  to the counter to order dessert for them to share, see also: NEW PROP FOR MORE PICTURES.

I saw later that night that Bae Bae’s reposted some of their pictures and THEY SAT ON OUR SEATS AFTER WE LEFT, which was like 15 minutes before closing, so maybe the whole time THEY were trying to wait US out?? Like, if I had just gone over there and politely said, “EXCUSE ME, CUNTS WE WANT TO SIT HERE FOR A SEC, BEAT IT” everyone could have gotten their way!?

Anyway, it was a tumultuous day. A real roller coaster of emotions. Maybe next year, we’ll just go to the movies and Taco Bell.

Dec 292019
 

Our Thanksgiving dinner to go set notwithstanding, it had been a minute since we last dined at Zenith, which is a damn crime because it’s not only my favorite vegetarian restaurant in Pittsburgh, but also one of my favorite restaurants in general all around. I mean, how many places do you know where you can eat a vegan fish sandwich, drink of pot of whichever tea you choose from the broad collection in a cabinet, and buy an antique mental institution wheelchair?

We don’t eat out very often, but even for as infrequently as we visit, the family who runs the place still remembers us and they really make it feel like you’re dining in their home—it’s so cozy and intimate and there is not even a HINT of pretension swirling around the rafters.

I’m not sure I have ever been here during Christmas, now that I think about it…HAVE I BEEN?! My memory is getting foggier and muddier, and I’m not handling it very well. Did I tell you that a few weeks ago, Margie at work asked me when CHOOCH’S birthday is, and with the UTMOST CONFIDENCE, I answered, “June 6th.”

THIS IS NOT CORRECT! That is Henry’s birthday! So I laughed and said, “OMG no that’s not right! It’s April 6th.”

Margie laughed it off and started to change the subject but then the blood began bubbling behind my cheeks as I realized that I WAS WRONG AGAIN. I could have just let it go but what if Margie has some ironclad memory and would always remember that it’s April 6th and then there would be this whole thing where she sees his birth certificate and notices a different date and then puts two and two together that Chooch was kidnapped and NO WONDER ERIN HAS NO MATERNAL INSTINCTS SHE IS NOT A MOTHER.

Sorry. That took a turn. I’m waiting for Henry and Chooch (?!?!) to finish making dinner and I think I’m light headed.

Foodwise, Henry actually enjoys Zenith. I know, it’s hard to imagine him not double fisting some bratwurst but he doesn’t mind going meatless every now and then. (He does not like tofu, though.)

However, Henry usually clenches up the whole time we’re there because I usually find some obscure thing that I need to have, like this hanging lamp from a church that I bought straight from the ceiling of the dining room as Henry and I ate dinner. Or the time Kara and I were having lunch there and whoa, who invited this clown to join us? Oh, right – me.

(Also, apparently I HAVE been there while the Christmas decor was up. My blog serves as my memory now so it’s a good thing I’m all about the HONESTY on here, lol.)

I’m not a big tea drinker but it’s part of the process to pick a fancy tea at Zenith. On this visit, I chose maple vanilla and it was AMAZE. I think sarsaparilla (REALLY THIS IS HOW THAT’S SPELLED?!) is still my favorite that I’ve ever had there.

Oh, and for those playing along at home, Chooch burnt dinner, which was a french fry recipe called “Hume Fries” from his new “The Good Place” cook book. We blamed Henry though because Chooch was supposedly only in charge of cutting the various carbs and Henry was responsible for the oven part.

Henry’s salad. I always appreciated how colorful the Zenith side salads are. None of that soggy, wilted iceburg lettuce and cherry tomato bullshit.

Henry opted for the seitan teriyaki entree – he’s a big fan of seitan, and I am too, honestly. That shit is the meat substitute that God wanted us to have. If more people would open their hearts to seitan, the world would be such a better place! HAVE YOU EVEN TRIED SEITAN WINGS?!

BBQ tofu sandwich – I don’t eat very much bread on my daily diet, so sometimes I crave sandwich buns. This was one so soft and honestly it was almost as good as the BBQ tofu spilling out of it, which btw was the perfect texture: firm but with a nice, springy bounce, like what Henry’s imaginary mistress Cheetah Girl’s boobs were probably like in the 70s.

Chooch got the black bean burrito but I didn’t take a picture of it because you know what a burrito looks like but also because he fucking gutted it immediately so it was basically inside out and looked like a Mexican crime scene.

Oh, and he also ordered an appetizer of buffalo hummus and pita “for the table” and holy shit you guys, is that what buffalo chicken dip tastes like?! I never had it before because I don’t think it was a popular party food yet back when I still ate meat, but I guess the hummus was supposed to be flavored the same and it was honestly the best hummus I’ve ever had and look, I live down the street from Pitaland and also, I’ve been to Greece, so.

If you go to Zenith, save room for whatever vegan Bundt cake option they have going on that day because it will blow your meat-mind, yo. Personally, my favorite will forever be the lemon poppyseed but the chocolate hazelnut hunk up there was *FRENCH FINGER-KISSES*

Chooch and I ditched Henry once the cake plate was licked clean and we walked around to explore. I’m always on the prowl for new things to add to my mishmashed collection at home. There is this old-fashioned pram hanging from the ceiling and I have had my eyes on that for years but I didn’t hound Henry for anything on this visit because we are planning an Easter trip and I am trying to be responsible with my monies but shit, it’s tough when you want everything.

One of the Zenith people came over while Chooch was tapping on an old typewriter, and I thought he was going to be like DO NOT TOUCH but instead he told us that he just recorded a song using the sounds of a typewriter as the background and I thought that was really cool and wanted to ask him if he has it online anywhere but then he distracted me by asking me how long it’s been now so I’ve been coming there and I had to think for a second but wow, it’s been over 10 years now. My first visit was with Kara in 2008!

If you ever go to Zenith, after you polish off the slice of cake that I told you to order, make sure you don’t leave without checking out the bathrooms. There are two, but the door on the left is my favorite. It’s owl-themed! I’m still a little sad because this room was originally painted blue, but it’s been green for so long now that it’s grown on me. I mean, it’s a room full of owls! The only thing better would be a room full of…G-Dragons.

Obligatory selfie.

Obligatory selfie part 2.

Such a selfie station. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been peeing in this bathroom long before Instagram was even a thing yet.

I keep saying that I want to start collecting these old light up Santas (and Easter bunnies!) but then I never do anything about it. Obviously I would keep them year-round in my house.

Ugh, the most nostalgic Christmas trees! My OCD would always flare up anytime the ones we had growing up would be missing lights. I wish I had kept one.

And that was our lovely Saturday afternoon at Zenith, a place that I do not visit nearly enough. One of these years, I will have my birthday dinner there like I have been saying I want to do for the last 10 years. (OR SOMEONE COULD PLAN THAT FOR ME, I DUNNO, JUST A THOUGHT. MY BIRTHDAY IS JULY 30, EVERY YEAR.)

Nov 242019
 

Hello, here I am to tell you all about the vegetarian lunch we had in Fairfax, Virginia last weekend because sometimes I like to pretend that I’m a really shitty food blogger, except that I don’t have to pretend the “really shitty” part.

After scoping out the venue for the SuperM concert last Sunday, we decided to get lunch over with and by that I mean, Henry and Chooch were ready for lunch and I was silently hyperventilating because my stomach did seem very open to the idea of jamming food into it. I wanted to find a vegetarian/vegan place and Henry did not attempt to veto this because deep down, he’s into vegan cuisine and driving long distances for kpop concerts.

That’s our Papa H.

I used my nemesis Yelp to find this place called Sunflower. Most places in that area seemed to be chains or just salad joints. Sunflower also seemed to be an Asian establishment, which was good because those types of restaurants generally tend to do meatless dishes mush better and with less pretension than your typical hipster ding-ding-basket-on-my-bicycle-ding-ding places.

Chooch and I were off to heated start right away because there was a help wanted sign but he spotted it first and I was so pissed! I still tried to get it with my JobSpotter app on the way out, thinking enough time had passed, but it was REJECTED because it was a DUPLICATE.

We got there right around noon, which was GREAT PLANNING, and that joint was packed! But it was all normal people and no one who was going to squint at us to see if we had enough tattoos or were wearing vegan TOMS.

Honestly you guys, I have been a vegetarian since 1996 and certain vegan types make it so hard. Like, just be cool about it and dial back the anger! I swear it’s gotten to the point where the size of one’s record collection is now a factor into how good of a vegan they are, and us lowly vegetarians just don’t even count anymore more.

So I was happy when we walked in and the whole place was filled with mostly Indians and some random other families. No one stopped to stare at us to determine just exactly how meatless our lives are!

There was this one mother/son combo seated near us that were SO ANNOYING though. I tried not to fixate on them but the son waved the waiter over constantly with requests: more ice in his water, chopsticks–BLACK ONES, specifically–take this plate away! It was crazy how demanding he was. So much so that I made a conscious effort to be even nicer to the waiter.

Besides, the service there was wonderful and efficient!

There was a small two-seater table next to ours and Henry grimaced when a young couple and their baby were seated there.

“Let’s move our table over to give them room,” I whispered while they were still standing and getting their baby shit situated. There was enough empty space next to me that we could easily afford to shift our Sunflower spot.

“No,” Henry said curtly.

“Yes!” I shot back, moving my side of the table over so now I was sitting alone, basically, because all the tables were two-seaters that were pushed together to accommodate larger parties.

“No, I don’t want to,” Henry muttered.

“Oh for God’s sake!” I cried, and started pulling his and Chooch’s table over to rejoin mine until he reluctantly helped me.

And the couple thanked us profusely, because now the husband didn’t have to swan dive over the tables to get to his seat, so there Henry.

I TOOK ALL THE CREDIT FOR THAT ONE.

And even better, their baby wasn’t too annoying. But Henry hated the wife because she was, god forbid, wearing tight jeans with ripped edges and HEELED BOOTS. That’s his current least-favorite women’s fashion trend, apparently. He ranted about this a few weeks ago and I was speechless for once.

Henry got the SUNFLOWER SATISFACTION. I don’t know what it was but it had some cool mushrooms and peppers in it, and some type of soy product.

The special of the day coincidentally was a Korean tofu casserole and I was SO CLOSE to ordering it and if we didn’t have that concert looming overhead, I definitely would have, but my nerves. They were vocal. So I played it safe and ordered a tempeh sandwich, you’re welcome, Stomach.

It was delicious and came on the nicest ciabatta roll. I love ciabatta.

Chooch also opted for a sandwich but his was orange chicken and I had food-envy.

We also got an order of daikon radish cakes which were to DIEKON FOR if you know what I’m saying. Now I’m desperate for Henry to make them for Christmas, or, I don’t know, some fake book club meeting.

Here’s a better view of Henry’s lunch, photo taken by Chooch, because we use this vegetarian food rating app called ABillionVeg and for every 10 reviews of veg/vegan food you submit, they make a donation to various animal rights organizations. Chooch cracked up afterward because the tomato on Henry’s plate is actually Chooch’s refuse.

Then we finished it with a piece of lemon tofu cheese pie to share. It was SO GOOD. I always pretend that vegan desserts are like zero calories but just because they might be made with “healthier” ingredients does NOT make this diet food. Henry and I once had a raw cheesecake at some vegan joint in Cleveland and I think it was like 2500 calories, seriously, lol. Cashews, man!

My only regret is that we don’t live close enough to eat our way through their menu. It was extensive! I made sure to tell the waiters that everything was great when we were on our way out, which I think always embarrasses Chooch but at least I’m never KAREN ASKING FOR THE MANAGER.

Apr 232019
 

We’re not a religious family, not even the faux-religiosos who go to church just on holidays in order to look good or meet some kind of biblical quota, I have no idea what I’m talking about here. And Chooch is past the age where he requires an Easter basket, so even the materialistic part of the holiday is kind of just over for us.

(Actually, we got him an international snacks subscription box so someone else can prepare a monthly Easter basket for him, basically.)

However, as I mentioned before, I do really like the idea of Easter because how can you not associate it with spring and that heart fluttery-hope that comes on the heels of the end of another depressing winter?

So while we lack the bonnets and the Easter egg hunts (although Chooch did go next door to Blake and Haley’s and hid some plastic eggs while Calvin was sleeping — Chooch loves his little nephew so much and it’s pretty heart-warming, not gonna lie), I still always request that we do SOMETHING to celebrate. Usually it’s just dinner out at a Chinese restaurant, and then there was that one time we hosted a Pizza Party for Jesus Christ for some of our friends who didn’t have any family in the area. God, that was a good time.

Last year, we were in KOREA for Easter. *sobs*

For this year, I figured we’d just do the Chinese restaurant thing again but then one night, right when I was on the verge of slumber, I had the best idea: Henry could recreate the famous Inkigayo sandwiches that the kpop idols love to eat, but we’d call it the EASTERgayo sandwiches!

A brief background on the Inkigayo sandwiches: In South Korea, all of the main broadcasting stations have their own weekly music show, kind of like TRL was for MTV I guess, where all of the groups and artists perform their current hit song. One of those music shows is called Inkigayo (it means “popular”) and it’s become public knowledge that their cafeteria makes this sandwich that’s only available to staff and kpop idols, called the Inkigayo sandwich (natch). The idols supposedly go nuts for this layered handheld meal, but also there is legend that they use the sandwich as a vessel in which to secretly exchange numbers with each other, since dating is verboten for many of them (literally, some kpop groups have a no-dating clause in their contracts).

Of course, the legend focuses on G-Dragon, because he is a legend.

Goddamit I miss him.

I even made Inkigayo greeting cards for my Hello Hanguk shop! I called them InkiHELLOs, lololol I love myself.

Anyway! I thought it would be cute to make these sandwiches and have a picnic or something, but when I told Chooch the idea he was like WHY U SO CRINGE.

But Henry was like, “Whatever. Just send me the ingredients.”

Um..

I was just excited because I was able to read this without the translation. Me and my toddler-level Korean vocab!

There are all kinds of variations floating around out there, and now three convenience store chains in South Korea have started making their own and they’re all apparently completely different from each other. But the one above seems like it is the most true to the original? Hard to tell unless we ship Chooch off to JYP so he can start his idol training.

We decided to go with a nice, sturdy potato bread that wouldn’t collapse under the weight of the layers. And we even eschewed Hellman’s for the more Asian-centric Kewpie mayo (it’s Japanese, not Korean, but still felt more legit than using something American):

Image result for korean mayo

Plus, that mayo is a billion times better than our shit here at home.

Watching Henry slather on each layer, I had my reservations. I mean, we used up nearly an entire loaf of bread on this, so I hoped it wasn’t going to be all for naught.

Just in case, I threw some fruit in the basket and proposed that we swing by Pink Box for some baked goods and boba tea.

God, I love Pink Box. Asian breads are so underrated.

We found a picnic shelter in nearby Schenley Park but of course I had to take a lame picture first, not that anyone seemed in much of a hurry to dig in to some ‘gayos.

Chooch’s first bite produced some not-great reactions…

…but then by the second bite, his face transformed into this mischievous smirk and I could tell he didn’t want to admit it, but after he finished chewing, he said, “OK, holy shit. That’s actually REALLY GOOD.”

This morning he said he wished he had one to take to school today for lunch. Even with all that bread, it’s still probably a healthier option than anything in that gross cafeteria!

His official review was, “Great sandwich, cringey name.”

I can’t explain it, and it looks like crazy talk on paper, but it was one DAMN FINE sandwich. We all scarfed ours without ever putting them down on the plate. I mean, how we didn’t have at least one choking victim is beyond me.

(I even brought out the nice tea sandwich plates that I got for 99 cents at Goodwill, lol.)

Henry went light on the mayo and I think that was the trick:

  • the cabbage salad was so crisp and bright, and the apple really added a nice touch (HE ALMOST FORGOT THE ADDITION OF THE APPLE, IT’S A GOOD THING I WALKED INTO THE KITCHEN THAT MORNING TO SUPERVISE/MICROMANAGE).
  • the egg & potato combo was moist (not sorry) without being wet and drippy. Henry left the crab meat out of Chooch’s and my sandwiches, but he added it to his and said it was fine. I liked that the potatoes made it chewier.

I know that you’re wondering about the strawberry jam and I actually wish there was MORE. It really added the perfect, final touch! It was a light, sweet bridge between two picnic-y salads and it didn’t aggravate my gag reflex as expected!

It makes sense to me  though, as someone who welcomes the addition of jam on her grilled cheeses. I’m fine with any flavor on a standard grilled cheese, one with cheddar or some American slices, but my all-time favorite grilled cheese is dill Havarti on pumpernickel with FIG JAM.

Oh sweetly-spanked Mussolini, I would drop my tears onto one of those right now if I could.

(Sometimes Henry will make that one for me with raspberry preserves in lieu of fig jam and it is a comparable substitution.)

Look, I get the appeal of places like Melt but sometimes I just want a simple-sized grilled cheese (i.e. something I don’t have to eat with a fork) with super classy ingredients, OK?

My mouth is crying.

We were going to do an Easter photoshoot so the bunny ears came along but who even cares anymore. We were punch-drunk off our EASTERgayo sandwiches by this point.

After our lunch, we promised that kid that he could look for geocaches but instead of just staying in Schenley, we left and went to neighboring Frick Park, where Chooch took us down a fucking deer trail into peoples’ backyards and we were like, “YOU’RE GOING TO GET THE COPS CALLED ON US, DUMBASS” and have I mentioned lately how much I hate geocaching?

He only ended up finding two because he sucks at directions and my shoes got ruined because I thought we were going to woods that had cement paths and Henry was like, “THAT’S CALLED A SIDEWALK” but whatever. I was woefully unprepared and I hate walking in mud. Like, a lot.

Some rando fairy town in the woods. This made me laugh because earlier that morning, I accidentally stumbled across this holistic girl’s YouTube channel and before I knew was happening, I had watched six videos, added a bunch of reiki mushroom powders to Henry’s Amazon cart, and a had an intense craving for a kombucha float (made with like, vanilla oat milk ice cream, probably). Henry was like, “This bitch be annoying” but I liked her simply because her voice was soothing and she sounded like she lived inside a mushroom in a forest full of fairies. So when we found this dumbass display in Frick Park, I started cracking up because she probably has a similar set up next to her squirrel wigwam.

Meanwhile, Chooch was looking up geocaches in Seoul. “Look how many are in Hongdae!” he cried, and I was like, why? Are you pre-planning all the ways you’re going to ruin my birthday trip?

HE PRACTICALLY RUINED EASTER WITH HIS GEOCACHING SHENANIGANS.

Hoooooo lawd, I hate rooting around nature for Tupperware.

Anyway! That was our Easter. Only one tiny complaint was that it was cloudy and on the chilly side, but at least we didn’t fight at all! It was an Easter miracle.

(Those EASTERgayos, tho…)

Feb 012019
 

I was going through my pictures and realized I have way too many for one post so you know what that means — whoooooboy multi-posts!

Since we were in Toronto in the dead of winter with very little time, we didn’t do any touristy things and instead just focused on being gluttons. Toronto is a meatless Mecca so our options were overwhelming, and luckily our resident Meat Man Henry is perfectly content eating vegetarian/vegan so we went, um, hogwild.

Except for breakfast which was just a quick stop to Tim Horton’s because this was like A BIG DEAL for Chooch and you have to throw the kid a bone here and there so that when they grow up and pen an in depth exposé on their childhood, it won’t be all doom, gloom, & my parents locked me in a piss-puddled storage closet, you know?

So here is a little run-down of Sunday’s eats, treats, & drinks.

Our first stop after Tim Horton’s was a Vietnamese cafe in Korea Town called Rustle & Still. I was drawn to this place by a promise of pandan and purple sweet potato latte options. I had a sweet potato latte in Busan and have been dying to have another ever since, especially a purple one! I eat purple sweet potatoes nearly every day at home. My diet is very niche.

My first impression of this place was that it’s very vegetation-friendly. I love plant-filled cafes!

My second impression was that it was not one of those snobby places that brings out a first-timer’s inner-n00b. The barista (possibly the owner? He had that owner-aura to him) had a friendly face and didn’t make me feel rushed.

Chooch and I had a game-plan that morning in the hotel, which consisted of me ordering the sweet potato and him going for the matcha pandan so that we could share, but once we were at the counter, he acted like this was BREAKING NEWS and got all weird and surly about it. He ordered it anyway, but then tacked on, “Because I guess that’s what I HAVE to order” and I was like “WTF is your damage, child!?” because he pulls this shit all  the time and it’s bewildering to me. He has this knack for acting like I have all of these one-sided conversations when he, at one time, is a willing participant!

PARENTS, DO YOUR CHILDREN THROW YOU UNDER THE BUS LIKE THIS!?

Anyway, he also ordered a black sesame coconut cookie so that pacified him a little.

My lattes! Yes, I inherited Chooch’s matcha pandan latte because suddenly, he no longer likes matcha and apparently “never said that [he] did” so I guess that’s another dream-convo I had — am I even really here? Or am I living in the dementia ward at some Ukranian clinic? What is even real anymore!?

Mr. I Never Said I Liked Matcha

Mr. Everyone Knows I Don’t Like Matcha But I Will Drink Half of This Latte Because I Paid Like $10 For It

Oh you guys, I was so mad. BUT! The silver lining is that both lattes were just my style and I didn’ regret for a single minute the bloated belly (Chooch hates that word, so now I use it often) I received after drinking nearly 2 thick lattes in one sitting.

Afterward, we went into the city center and hit up Milk Bar at Momofuku. It was actually just a little self-serve area so we just grabbed some cookies and a to-go slice of crack pie and went about our way and by that I mean, Chooch and I fought with Henry as soon as we got outside because we act like we’re starving children just let out of a crate and we didn’t trust him not to eat everything so he threw the bag at us and stalked off toward the subway. Haha, what a bitch baby.

The next part of our food journey took us back to Korea Town that afternoon but not for Korean food, like you’d expect! Instead, we went to Apiecalypse Now, which is another vegan place that Chooch had his stomach set on. Henry and I were actually going to eat here the last time we were in Toronto, but the sweet fucking siren call of Korean food lured us a different direction.

We got here around 30 minutes after they opened so we were able to walk right up to the counter and order (I mean, after hemming and hawwing – there were so many choices!). We all opted for slices of the Pig Destroyer Destroyer which wins for best pizza and also best name because come on now. Henry also got a slice of the BBQ Buffalover which I think I would have loved had I not already tried the Pig Destroyer Destroyer, because anything after that one pales in comparison. It is the ultimate, meaty meatless pizza! I fucking inhaled my slice and the best part was that it didn’t make me sick to my stomach afterward like a regular slice of cheese pizza would. (Which sucks because I love pizza but it almost always makes me sick now.)

As you can clearly tell from the name of our pizza slices alone, this place has major punk aesthetic so I didn’t get that shitty “more vegan than you” vibe from it at all.

Chooch looks solemn in this picture but it was actually just because I had the nerve to take his picture while he was fumbling toward pizza ecstasy.

And here’s Henry (im)patiently waiting for me to TAKE THE FUCKING PICTURE so that he can finally have his carnivore card revoked. J/K. He liked his pizzas too but not nearly as much as he would had there been real fatty meat on each slice.

But I’ll tell you, I’m still talking about that damn pizza almost as much as the Winner concert, which is the actual reason we were in Toronto!

Family Portrait 2019

After a bunch of walking through the one-digit Toronto temps (actually I think it was like 10 degrees that day but, windchill) we headed back to the hotel and  then ate dinner at a Viet-vegan joint called Dai Bi Chay. This was actually Henry’s choice! I was willing to eat at a regular restaurant, figuring that Henry would have been withering away by this point, but he was like, “Let’s eat more soy! Woo! Soy baby!”

Pages upon pages of glorious meat-free options, I could barely stand it. We had such a good  meal there, even though someone behind Henry was eating like a very hungry man without his dentures in and you know it’s bad when HENRY, the White Noise of Annoying Sounds People Make, gets all up-in-arms and hoarsely whispers to me, “What is that behind me!?” And then it magically became less annoying for me, knowing that it was bothering Henry!

I don’t even remember what I had but the broth was piping hot and winter-perfect and the BBQ mock-meat lounging on top of the noodles was just a motherfucking delight. Henry also had some kind of noodle soup dish and this was the meal that he’s still talking about from the weekend. He loved it there!

Chooch had fried rice or something because he doesn’t believe in food adventures, but he had no problem eating more than his share of the appetizers we ordered!

Meanwhile, Chooch and I were so giddy. We have this running joke that whenever Henry is “going to the store” or “to the laundromat,” he is actually going downtown to this strip club called Blush and that his favorite stripper there is some broad named “Cheetah Girl” — Chooch created her but we talk about her all the time like she’s a real person in Henry’s life and he gets really mad about it. So for some reason, Chooch started googling strippers while we were eating and he was like, “HAHAHAHAHA HERE’S CHEETAH GIRL” but then I was like, “No, wrong one” so I googled, “Old ass washed-up strippers” and presented a picture of someone’s grandma sprawled out on a bed in black leather lingerie and at this point Chooch started choking and the waitress kept asking him if he was OK and Henry was signing off on the official Disowning Paperwork.

OMG my stomach hurts right now just thinking about how uproariously we were laughing over this while Henry had virtual steam billowing out of his ears and Chooch and I actually ran to the car ahead of him when we left because we were afraid he was going to beat us with his boot, lol.

(Disclaimer: Henry has never beaten us with his boot but there’s always a first time for everything!)

Henry will never stop eating meat but it’s really cool that he is willing (and without being a jerk) to eat vegetarian/vegan food every now and then. I mean, let’s be real, most times, Chooch and I have to scramble to find something to eat at regular restaurants or we have to settle for the generic Gardenburger of the 1990s. It’s nice to actually experience the other end of ordering anxiety – when there’s so much to choose and everything sounds delicious!

So hats off to Halftime-Herbivore Hank for indulging our plant-based needs.

Well, that concludes my Sunday food round-up. We didn’t purposely go to Toronto with a Go Veg or GTFO mindset, but it just happened that way!

Jan 232019
 

Henry had to work because I guess Faygo doesn’t recognize the importance of Martin Luther King Jr., but Chooch and I had the day off. We had lunch plans with Janna but first Chooch got all involved in some pirated version of Heathers he found on YouTube and I was like “Oh ok so I’m watching Heathers with my kid” but then I quickly was like, “Wait should I be watching Heathers with my kid?” It’s funny how you don’t realize how inappropriate/crude/parentally alarming things are until you watch it with your pre-teen.

Chooch’s main takeaway was that Christian Slater isn’t all that great.

WELL OK BUT YOU WERE BORN IN 2006 SO…

Janna came and picked us up around 12:30 (she originally thought I wanted her to pick us up at 12:03 and thought I was being oddly specific when really she’s a number-dummy) and we headed off to Lawrenceville via some weird scenic route. Originally, our plan was to go to B52, which is a vegan place that Henry refuses to go to not because he’s some big burly bacon-eater, but because he just knows that the clientele within those walls is going to be pretentious AF.

And deep down, I know this too.

So we arrived around 1:00 and there was a 30 minute wait because every yuppie vegan in the area who had the day off had the same idea as us. We gave the hostess our name, figuring we were there so we might as well just deal with the wait. Some weird bitch came in and started asking us all these questions about the wait and where to leave her name and there were two other people standing closer to her so I don’t understand why she couldn’t just ask them—oh yeah, because they looked like stuck-up douches and we looked like regular people without a list of French films about incest shoved up our asses.

Eventually, the hostess with the weird bob, 1980s Babysitters Club glasses and super red lipstick came over and said that some space opened up at the counter if we wanted to sit there instead of continuing to wait for a table, and we stupidly said yes, which was such a mistake because it was awkward at the counter and I couldn’t get comfortable long enough to even concentrate on the menu. I kept hoarsely whispering to Janna, “I hate this. I hate it here. I’m so uncomfortable. They don’t even have what I wanted* on the menu today. Let’s just leave OMG should we just leave Janna can we leave?” and Janna really picked up handsomely on my hints and said, “Yes, we can just leave” so we did and I was like DEUCES MALORIE (that’s what I imagine the hostess’s name was).

*(Vegan mousakka! Do you know how rare that is?! Real mousakka used to be one of my favorite foods after I had it in Greece when my aunt Sharon was like YOU WILL NOT LIKE THAT but bam bitch, I did.)

Anyway, we left and Janna was like, “Thank god, I hated sitting there too” and so many more people had lined up after us that we figured we had probably lost our spot for a table by then anyway, so fuck off B52. I don’t get why vegan eateries have to be soooooo uppity and uncomfortable. The only place I’ve been to that wasn’t like that, that didn’t make me feel like I needed to have pixie bangs or a neck tattoo or a Schwinn with a wicker basket as my primary means of transportation, is Zenith. Long live Zenith!!

We went down the street a bit and hit up our backup plan, Ki Ramen. I mean, after driving around for an eternity because Lawrenceville needs to trade in some hipsters for parking spaces, for real. It’s a huge reason why we don’t frequent that area more often.

Anyway, Ki Ramen was OK. It was weird because we walked in and stood there for a while before some waiter came over and asked, “You guys eatin’?”

Um, yes, that was the plan.

Apparently, we were in the wrong dining area? I was so confused! There were people eating in the room we were standing in, but the waiter took us down into a glorified garage (seriously, there were big wires coming out of the concrete walls) and at first I thought he was seating us AT ANOTHER COUNTER but at the last minute, he slid the menus down on the last empty table in that room. Thank god.

We started off with cauliflower wings – they were delicious!

Janna and I both got curry ramen. It wasn’t the best ramen I’ve ever had, that’s for sure. I mean, not to be a spoiled brat, but I’ve had ramen in actual Asia, so…

LOL, I cringed so hard when I typed that. Keeping it!

You think I’m bad, Chooch is like the biggest ramen snob ever and was definitely not impressed with his ramen.

But, the service was pretty quick which was nice because we were fucking starving.

Chooch-Eating-Ramen is my favorite Chooch, I think. He has such chopsticks-wielding pizzazz.

Chooch said this looked like our cat Penelope. :(

When the waitress brought our checks, the one she gave me was waaaaay cheaper than what it should have been. It was like half of what ours should have really been and there was that split second when I wanted to be an asshole and not say anything but this blog ain’t called OH HONESTLY ERIN for nothin’, OK?! I am stupid-honest! So I waved the waitress over and told her she brought me the wrong check, thinking that at the very least, maybe it would bring me some good old-fashioned Karma, but so far all it brought me was two shitty days in a row at work and $40 out of my bank account.

I was bitching about this to Henry who said, “Yeah, but even if you had kept the wrong check, you paid by credit card so they would have just charged the difference to the account later when they realized what happened,” and oh I’m sorry, I forgot that Henry teaches a class on Restaurant Check Fraud at the community college.

See also: STFU Henry.

Apparently, this was Chooch’s “take it easy” pose.

The post-lunch plan was to go to a cafe and get caffeine and dessert. We decided on Black Forge because Janna had never been there and I don’t go there as much as I should, but first Janna had to get stuck in a one-way street cesspool downtown, causing Chooch and I to have a million laughing fits until she tried to back out of a parking lot into oncoming traffic and then we weren’t laughing anymore.

But, she did eventually get us to Allentown in one piece, and then tried to park in a lot designated for the police at the local police station, lol. Fucking popo and their own private, convenient parking lots. Pfft.

Allentown has murals, you guys. We live for murals.

I have one pose, and this is it.

At Black Forge, Janna and I attended Chooch’s lecture on gender equality, inspired by the fact that Black Forge’s bathrooms are designated for “Wizards” and “Witches” but both genders can be either of those things, and also included a reference to “old men holding their dingalings in the bathroom.”

It was a great learning experience. I felt so enlightened.

The last time I was at Black Forge, their punch cards featured Trump and various members of his shitty administration, but now that most of those people have been ousted, their current cards just feature a bunch of Trump’s degenerate visages. I really fucking hate that man so goddamn much, that Black Forge could sell gas station swill and I would still happily support them.

But as it turns out, their coffee and other beverages are fantastic and they sell pastries made at the nearby vegan restaurant Onion Maiden, which is actually another vegan place that doesn’t make me like an outcast. But it’s also very small inside and gets crowded fast so you have to be strategic when planning a meal there.

Totally worth it though and now I’m kicking myself for not just suggesting we have lunch there that day!

In case you were wondering, which you weren’t I know, I got the My Dying Chai which may have been the best chai latte I’ve ever had, Janna got something mocha-y, and Chooch had to be difficult and inquire if the hot chocolate came in different flavors because he is spoiled rotten by the baristas at Muddy Cup who will make any fucking kind of fancy-ass hot chocolate your imagination can concoct as long as they have the syrup there (and they have the most extensive syrup collection I’ve ever seen), so the barista at Black Forge was like, “………flavors?” and then realized what he was asking so she was like, “Yeah go for it, bro” and he went with strawberry because I think he felt panicked since he didn’t have a list to reference, but he said the final product was “really fucking good” and I was like, “I will take your word for it” because I don’t play that backwash game.

Wow, that was a good way to spend the day off. It was only like 10 degrees and the perfect day to stay inside, but I’m really glad we went out and braved the bitter winter.

***

Later that evening, I made fun of Henry which caused Chooch to laugh so hard that he vomited and then I made the mistake of looking at it, so I started dry-heaving really bad and then Henry was like CLEAN THAT UP to Chooch, so then Chooch was dry-heaving while he was mopping up his puke, and this made me dry-heave even HARDER to the point where I was for certain that I was going to throw up, so I had to push Henry out of the way and run to the bathroom, where I could still hear Chooch dry-heaving from downstairs so then we were like gang-gagging back and forth, this terrible volley of vomit-coughs, and my eyes were watering so bad and eventually I FELL TO MY KNEES and screamed, “STOP MAKING THAT NOISE, CHOOCH, PLEASE!!!” because his hoarking was contagious. This went on for a solid five-minutes, passing puke-scares back and forth and Henry calmly muttered, “You two are fucking idiots” while the cats were like, “DO YA’LL HAVE HAIRBALLS TOO?!”

My abs were actually sore the next day from my fake bulimia bout.

Anyway, that’s just a little glimpse of what it’s like to be in this hell house.

Nov 232018
 

Look man I was just happy to have some days off work where I didn’t have to trudge to the damn trolley in premature winter temps. Plus, we’re leaving for Tennessee later today (Dollywood!) so I was content having nothing to do on actual Thanksgiving. My mom and I are both pretty meh about the holiday so I don’t mind that she doesn’t want to host anymore.

But then Chooch pulled out his vegetarian cookbook the night before and was all, “Papa*, I’m going to find some recipes for you for tomorrow” and then I was like, “Oh shit. The kid. We should probably do something for the kid.” Lol.

*(What Chooch calls Henry when he’s trying to pretend like we’re like a wholesome family.)

So then Henry was like I GUESS I AM GOING TO THE STORE THEN and set off on Thanksgiving Eve to procure the tofurkey which is usually sold out because he waits too long. I remember way back in the day when we had to drive like 45 minutes to some weird health store to get one because regular grocery stores didn’t sell stuff like that and I got made fun of for eating it but no one bats an eye. Changing times, etc etc.

The first half of the day consisted of Leslie Sansone walking workouts (lol), kdramas but no family drama, watching Henry cook & clean, looking at Kpop idols, freaking out over a mystery bruise on my thumb, and planning all our amusement park trips for 2019. It was splendid! (Not the bruise part though, I’m mildly alarmed by it.)

I was in such a good mood that I even felt inspired to decorate for Christmas:

Chooch was all excited when I told him I decorated and then said, “…oh” when he saw it.

Since there was just the three of us and we’re going away this weekend, Henry kept the spread the simple: a tofurkey for Chooch and me (he made gross chicken for himself because he doesn’t like real turkey), whatever garlicky mashed potato recipe Chooch found, and a completely revamped version of the broccoli rabe & white bean casserole recipe that Chooch also requested, because Henry couldn’t find broccoli rabe at 8pm on Thanksgiving Eve so he used regular broccoli and brussels sprouts instead and it was delicious.

(I don’t even know what broccoli rabe is and I know for damn sure Chooch doesn’t either, so this made no difference to us.)

Henry kept yelling at us from the kitchen to start eating but we were like NO WE HAVE TO WAIT FOR YOUUUUUU IT’S THANKSGIVING.

But it was really because we needed him to plate our Tofurkey.

Oh Lord, we got so giddy right away and Chooch had a Code Red laughing fit which caused him to flee the table in search of a Kleenex, so you know Henry was in a great mood! That combined with the fact that the same NCT 127 song was playing repeatedly in the background really completed the mood. Look at Henry’s delirious face! I think deep down, he’s thankful for us, lunacy and all, even if he sometimes must feel like he’s living in an asylum.

Tofurky looks like a giant hotdog butt.

After dinner, Chooch and I continued our tradition of watching birthday party videos on YouTube (4th year!). We found a whole slew of new million subscriber families to hate! I called the one birthday girl and all her friends “a bunch of bitches” and Chooch was like “Aren’t they like three?!”

OK now for the Friday Five portion, which is FIVE THINGS I AM THANKFUL FOR:

  1. Korea (Henry and Chooch rolled their eyes when we went around the table and “gave thanks” and this was of course the first thing I said and whatever because Chooch just kept saying “Bambi” over and over and now that I think about it, I don’t think Henry said ANYTHING!?
  2. Having a job that I like – yeah, I know, I complain about it at times, who doesn’t complain about having to leave the house to go to work?! But when you’ve had jobs that have made you sick to your stomach and have panic attacks while paying you pennies, getting one where you feel comfortable and needed is really something to be thankful for.  Thanks, job!
  3. The willpower to get in shape – when I first started dieting in 2012 I was just about 200 pounds.  I did WW for a bit and got myself down to about 170 but it was a struggle. I had no energy! I was miserable! I can’t remember when I started spending my lunch break hour walking around downtown, but that helped me get my energy back and also kept my weight stable so I wasn’t gaining, but I also wasn’t really losing anything either. Since starting my own routine in 2016, being more mindful of what I eat and when I eat, and keeping up on those lunch break walks (even in the rain, even when I’m sick, even when it’s cold), I’ve managed to get myself down to 145. I never felt “unhealthy” even when I was heavier, but I do FOR SURE feel more “able.” Sure, I still have major body image issues that I need to work on, but baby steps!
  4. Eternal Youth! – I’m going to be 40 next year, I have a shit-ton of gray hairs, but my brain refuses to accept that and still spends most of its time thinking about concerts and amusement parks and Kpop idols. I was talking to Amber about this at work the other day, how I’m trying to fit in a few days in Tokyo during my birthday Korea trip next summer because I want to go to DisneySea and how Henry is like dreaming of the day when we can plan a vacation that doesn’t include an amusement park, and Amber said, “I can’t believe you’re going to be 40. You’re like, ageless, to me.” YES.  I’m thankful that I have managed to maintain that part of myself because goddamn does it make life fun! Except for when you watch so many vlogs about roller coasters and are constantly hearing people talking about the “head chopper” elements and then you go to bed and have a horribly vivid nightmare that you’re watching a movie where some girl is walking down the steps of some Victorian mansion and gets her head lopped off by her dad, completely out of nowhere, but then it turns out to be YOU, you just had YOUR head chopped off, but later in the dream, you realize that your head was put back on, but apparently your ear had also been cut off and that was put back on much more jankily than your head, so it’s all bloody and it BURNS and also it’s not aligned properly with your head and you are FREAKING OUT ABOUT THIS. I mean, that’s just something that might happen.
  5. Henry & Chooch, le duh – Come on, this is a given. I have a guy who is mild-tempered and goes along with all my crazy ideas, he gets totally engrossed in every k-drama with me to the point where he’s mad when I start a new one without him (he’ll still watch it though), he sends me kpop-related texts on Kakao throughout the day (I made him download Kakao awhile back and it’s the only way we text now unless I’m mad at him then I use regular text and he’s like, “wow you must be mad”), he does whatever he can to make my life easier, and well, he’s just the best and I’m glad we’ve lasted together all these years because I can’t imagine many other people who would be like, “Yes, let me completely change the way I cook for you because now you’re on a make-believe Korean diet and sure, let’s go to Party City for new home decor so our house can continue to look like Pee Wee’s Playhouse and OK, let’s talk about going to some random town in the Netherlands so you can spend Easter 2020 at some weird amusement park.” Lol. And then Chooch! I couldn’t ask for a better kid. He is such a mini-Erin that it’s actually scary at times (or, “all times” if you’re Henry). He’s independent and self-motivated when it comes to school (he’s basically a genius but has ZERO COMMON SENSE though, oh my god, he is street-stupid), a mini-politician when it comes to the neighborhood (everyone knows him!), and he is SO ENTERTAINING. Janna was over here on Saturday for Kpop Fitness Night and afterward, he effortlessly had us cracking up just by being him, sitting there making his dumb Rainbow Loom bracelets. No, our life isn’t perfect, and we do all bicker with each other like normal TV families, but we never go to bed mad at each. (EXCEPT FOR LAST NIGHT BECAUSE WE GOT A BUNCH OF CARD ORDERS AND HENRY AND I DO NOT WORK WELL TOGETHER IN THE GREETING CARD FACTORY.)

Anyway, that’s my Thanksgiving 2018 recap and obligatory “thankful” list. I’ll end here with a video of Mini-Erin stalking his nemesis Larry:

ETA: Chooch just woke up and said, “Well, I see the dining room table is back to its old self” and I screamed “WELL, WE HAD 80 MILLION CARDS TO MAKE LAST NIGHT OK, THANKS FOR THE HELP!”

Oct 102018
 

For reasons that I will get to in a separate post, we once again found ourselves roaming around NYC last Sunday, the day after the BTS concert. Why is it that every time we find ourselves in NYC, it’s completely spontaneous and unplanned?! I don’t know, but it’s kind of fun and I can’t say that I hate it.

We were in Queens when our original plans shit the bed, so we shrugged and moved on. I mean, at least it happened in a city that has a billion things to do! And I know it’s kind of dumb, maybe not something you would choose to do above all else while in NYC, but there is this ice cream place that I’ve been following on Instagram for a while and it’s on my bucket list. (And yes, my bucket list is like 75% ice cream joints.) So that became our jumping-off point. I mean, at least we had something to start with!

This place also happens to be near Chinatown, so we decided that we would go there first and get lunch.

And then something miraculous happened: we walked around for about 20 minutes while I coveted, and I do mean biblically so, all of the exotic fruit being sold on the street. CHERIMOYA! LYCHEE! RAMBUTAN! SAPOTE! GOLDEN DRAGONFRUIT!

Oh, Chinatown, you fucking snake, you.

Of course Henry was all, “WE ARE NOT BUYING FRUIT. I AM NOT GOING TO CARRY FRUIT AROUND WITH ME ALL DAY. NO, KEEP WALKING. I’M NOT BUYING IT.”

Something amazing happened to us in Chinatown, you guys. We found a place to eat that we all agreed on, before any domestic violence broke out, and in record time. It was almost surreal. This almost never happens. We usually walk until our feet are praying to be lopped off by the Nighttime Sickle-Wielding Ghoul.

Are we finally learning how to coexist with each other in public as a family?!

No, it was probably just a fluke.

It also helps that Henry isn’t one of those manly MUST EAT MEAT bastards. He’s super compliant with Chooch’s and my vegetarian needs and is usually the one who finds good veg places for us to dine. In fact, he’s the one who spotted Buddha Bodai Kosher Vegan from across the street (probably also because my eyes are bad). It was crowded when we walked in, but I was determined to suck it up, butter(substitute)cup. So many times I panic at the sight of a crowded restaurant, but when we walked in, I realized that not only was this place vegan like the sign boasted, but it was also DIM SUM. Uh, hell yeah I want that vegan dim sum, bitches, and I will stand here in everyone’s way until a table is cleared for me.

Things were looking up right away though when we got the coveted corner table. Even though Chooch was a dick and wouldn’t let me sit where I wanted because he’s 12 you guys and 12-year-olds are perfect fucking dickheads, in case you don’t have children/have never been around children/wear a child-repelling amulet.

So right away, we started fighting about this and Henry was like ENOUGH. Wow, dad has spoken.

And then our waitress hated us because she thought I asked for meat (I most certainly did not) and she got all defensive and said, “NO! NO MEAT! WE DON’T SERVE MEAT HERE AT ALL ANYMORE!” and I felt like everyone had set down their chopsticks to get a better listen at the dumb tourist who came into the vegan dim sum joint looking for meat.

And then she hated me even more because I had Henry call her back over after I decided I didn’t want the Buddha’s Delight I ordered because I knew it was going to be too much food and I just wanted to fill up on dim sum instead and she was like APPALLED, like no one had ever changed their mind in the history of restaurants existing, ever.

Luckily, the food was amazing and Henry is still talking about it, a week later. I love that he isn’t too burly and gratuitously masculine that he can’t set aside his carnivorous tendencies for an hour to nosh on some finely prepared soy and seitan. I didn’t take pictures, but we got a wonderful assortment of steamed dumplings, some type of bun stuffed with this wonderful sweet faux-meat, spring rolls, something with taro, sweet rice balls….we were fucking stuffed and happy.

Chooch went rogue and got some kind of faux-chicken lo mein and the Chinese family next to us kept complimenting him on his chopstick skills. I was so proud!

And then Henry sent Chooch and me a selca from the restaurant bathroom, which made us lose our minds because HAHAHAHA since when does Henry take bathroom selcas?!

He’s not even smiling, this is killing me all over again!

After lunch, we walked to Milk & Cream Cereal Bar, which I follow on Instagram and drool over daily. I just really love the cereal-as-dessert concept and the novelty  has not worn off on me yet, even though it’s been 10 years (10!!) since my brother Corey and I were launched into sugar shock when we ate at Cereality in Philly and by “ate at” I do mean binged our way into checking off “Gluttony” in Deadly Sin Bingo.

(For those of you too L-Z to click that link, my cereal bowl was called The Devil Made Me Do It and it was comprised of Cocoa Puff, Lucky Charms, malt balls, and chocolate syrup. And then I had to drive for 6 hours back to Pittsburgh.)

So yeah, my love affair with sugary cereal goodness runs deep, so this latest trend of Fruity Pebbles-on-everything is something that really fucking speaks to me like a Leprechaun yodeling in tongues or a Bee Gees record playing in reverse.

Milk & Cream is somewhere in between Chinatown and Little Italy…maybe? That’s what it seemed like. I do not know NYC well at all so when someone asked me on Instagram where this was, I just ignored that part of her question and answered the rest. That’s what you call The Erin Way.

So at Milk & Cream, you pick your base ice cream (vanilla or cookie dough) and any cereal from the laundry list on the wall, which is blended together and splooged out of a soft-serve machine.

I of course chose vanilla and Fruity Pebbles, with a Teddy Graham topping. Chooch went with vanilla and Apple Jacks with a strawberry drizzle. Henry shared mine because I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish it (I think my new diet has shrunk my stomach, and I’m not complaining) but then later on, Henry whined about how he wanted to get his own because he was eyeing up the Cap’n Crunch option which I didn’t notice because my eyes hone into Fruity Pebbles first, always, and now I’m pissed that Henry didn’t speak up and be his own person because I would have liked to try his Cap’n Crunch creation too! Cap’n Crunch is my second favorite cereal, ugh, you fucked up Henry!!

Just look at those specks of Fruity Pebbly goodness! And the ice cream itself was thick and rich, way more dense than I expected after watching it splooge through the soft-serve machine. Suffice to say, I couldn’t finish it and Henry obediently finished off the sloppy seconds. I don’t think I save any Teddy Grahams for him, lol.

While I would highly recommend this place to anyone who loves the ice cream and cereal crossover special, it fucking killed my stomach and gave me a sugar headache, so I spent the rest of the afternoon feeling like absolute trash. I think I should have waited longer after eating lunch!

God, I even fail at eating ice cream. This is where I am in life, you guys. Sigh.

(And of course they have their Halloween specials available now so I want to go back and feast on some dumb Boo Berry brain freeze. How quickly the stomach forgets!)

Jul 152018
 

Dear e-diary,

Remember how I wanted to walk to the new-ish paleteria in Beechview on Friday to get some refreshing paletas, but then I ended up puking all day instead? Well, you’ll be happy to know that my own person doctor, Henry, diagnosed me with a 24-hour stomach bug and I felt A-OK when I woke up on Saturday! Which meant a Mexican popsicle celebration, naturally.

Here is a short review.

It was something like 90 degrees on Saturday and humid as the air between Trump’s ears, but I insisted that Henry and Chooch walk, not drive, to Alquisiras, where we would then be rewarded with an array of delightful Mexican flavors in frozen form. Chooch brought his scooter and I hate that thing so much but whatever.

It’s only about a 20 minute walk to Beechview, but if you take the longer way it’s all level. Henry argued with me about this and I was like, “Look motherfucker, if you want to be walking up steep ass motherfucking Pittsburgh hills*, be my guest, but I’ll take the nice leisurely route and get there 5 minutes after you.” He can’t bear to be without me, and Chooch was like OH, I’M NOT LUGGING THIS SCOOTER UP A HILL, so it was MY WAY OR NO WAY.

*(Hey, San Fran, I’ll see you out there with your steep-ass fucking streets but Pittsburgh has the country’s** steepest street of all time, so stop hogging our limelight.)

**(Some people claim it’s the steepest in the world, but I think I read there is street in New Zealand that actually holds that record.)

There were so many paletas to choose from and it was a legit struggle. I kept going back and forth between walnut, chili mango, and red currant, but I eventually asked Walnut to mouth-prom because I love nuts, man. It was SO GOOD too but now I’ll just have to go back and try all the other flavors and I can’t really be mad about that.

Chooch got strawberries and cream and was clearly so ready for this picture.

Henry was like, “I’ll just stick with ice cream because I’m square.” He chose pistachio (always a good choice) but then whined later that he wished he had gotten a paleta instead so I guess we have to bring him back with us next weekend, ugh.

Prince of posing in front of murals.

Other things happened on Saturday too, but the one thing that stands out the most is that Henry proved that HE DOESN’T REALLY KNOW ME AT ALL. We were getting ready for bed that night, totally exhausted from a really good Kpop Kardio hour and lots of subtitle-reading (we started watching Roommate because a new episode of Are You Human Too hadn’t yet been released and we needed our Seo Kang Joon fix and by “we” and “our” you know I mean “Henry” and “his.”). We had the a/c on in our room but it was still kind of muggy in there and I was complaining about how I was too hot.

“Well, you’re under the covers. Take the covers off,” he suggested like I hadn’t already considered this!?

“Yeah, I can do that a little bit but you know I how I have to have my feet covered at all times,” I said.

“……no?” Henry answered with hesitation in his voice.

“Yes you do!” I cried. “Like, everyone knows that about me.” And when Henry didn’t answer, probably because he was flipping through the Rolodex of Erin’s Issues in his head, I tried to help him by dropping clues. “You know, because I don’t want to get my feet lopped off…”

“WHAT?!” he yelled. “By who!?”

“The man with the sickle!” I yelled back, like how was this news to him?! I’m sure I even mentioned this on LiveJournal before and I KNOW I have discussed this with some of my work friends too.

“Oh my god,” Henry sighed. “I don’t even want to know.”

I was so offended that this wasn’t one of those super important facts that he seared into his brain, but I still gave him the run-down about how ever since I was in second grade and we moved into our new house on Gillcrest, I was always terrified to look out of my bedroom window at night because it faced the backyard which was surrounded by woods and our neighbors’ tennis court that was always illuminated just enough at night to make the shadows come to life in ones mind, and I would sneak peeks out the window and swear that someone would be out there, creeping around in the backyard, waiting for me to fall asleep with my feet outside of the blanket so he could lop them off with his sickle and run away with them in a sack slung over his shoulder.

“It’s the same reason why I would always stand at my door, run and leap into my bed at night, so I wouldn’t be standing close enough for the man under my bed to grab my ankles,” I told Henry.

I think he was sleeping by then though.

But yeah, nearly 39 years old and I will never succumb to the man with the sickle! YOU’LL NEVER GET MY FEET, MOTHERFUCKER. Take Henry’s.

Apr 272018
 

Isn’t it crazy when you can not see someone for years and years yet somehow fall right back into a comfortable groove when you do? That’s how it is with my friend Alisha, who I saw for the first time last summer since 2010, and again last Friday when she was in town visiting from Arkansas.

I was so glad that she carved out some time for me on this latest visit, especially when I texted her a picture of a Julian Baker concert flyer and her immediate response was, “YES LET’S GO TO THAT” and within minutes she bought tickets. I forgot what it felt like to have a friend who wants to go to shows!

But first, food. Alisha picked me up from work and we skipped all the frou-frou salutations and went right into our routine of her being annoyed and exasperated and me being totally giddy – ugh, I missed our dysfunctionally perfect yin and yang!

Alisha’s British-voiced GPS led us to Apteka, an Eastern Europe-Yinzer-Vegan joint across from the Allegheny Cemetery that my friend Sarah recommended to me over a year ago and I never made it there because kimchi or GTFO. However, Alisha is vegan so I thought this would be a grand time to check it out and I was happy that it wasn’t crowded yet and the staff wasn’t off-putting as they sometimes can be in a niche vegan eatery, leaving me feeling not inked-up enough and half-assed in my veg-ways. (Which brings us back to kimchi, which I know is made with anchovy paste but I still eat it because I never signed a contract, OK? Korea has changed me!)

Apteka is cafe-style which is kind of annoying when you walk into a place for the first time and they’re like BAM HERE IS THE MENU STAND HERE AT THE COUNTER AND I WILL STARE AT YOU WHILE YOU TRY TO FIGURE OUT OUR WEIRDO MENU GOOD LUCK WITH THE POLISH.

Alisha had a million questions and the Apteka girl very patiently answered her. She asked what the waitress recommended and she blew through the menu so fast I felt like I just been lead through a polka.

Alisha ordered the thing I was going to get so then I had to stand there and stammer, and of course I was unable to pronounce anything on the menu (is it nuts that I was trying to imagine what it would look like in Hangeul to help me sound it out?!) so I just pointed and said, “Lima bean.”

Because the thing I got had a lima bean purée and it was shockingly not phrased more dumb or pretentious than that because you know how nauseating menu descriptions can be in these types of places.  Let me see if I can find a menu…

Kluski Slaskie

baby lima bean + winter bitter leaves + potato dumplings + fried buckwheat + marjoram (GF)

I didn’t even notice that my meal had marjoram on it and I guess it doesn’t matter because I didn’t even notice it while I was eating it to even wonder what even is it. That was a weird sentence.

(GUYS, I LOOKED IT UP. IT’S MINT.)

Alisha also ordered a pot of some kind of tea for us to share. It tasted like ground. Maybe it would have been better with sugar but do vegans eat sugar? I didn’t see any.

Alisha also ordered the Kanapki which was three pieces of small toast, each with a different spread on it. One was for sure carrot and that was the only one I liked.

Guys, that’s my plate at the bottom there and it was so fucking good – those potato dumpling dickheads were so fucking divine and I wanted so much more, and the fried buckwheat was WHAT THE HELL WHY HASN’T HENRY BEEN CRACKLIN’ BUCKWHEAT FOR ME ALL THIS TIME levels of tasty. And that lima bean puree? I didn’t have time to grab my bathing suit before diving into that bitchin’ legume lagoon.

That’s Alisha’s crap at the top.

Somehow, my dinner was considered a “large plate” and hers was “small” and cheaper yet seemed so much bigger and she was still working on it a good twenty minutes after I had licked the last lima smear from my plate.

To cap off our meal, I ordered dessert for us to split, and again, I could have eaten 5 plates of these.

My Apteka verdict is that the food was bomb and inventive, and even had a level of comfort to it that vegan joints sometimes lack. But, for the price I paid and the amount of food I ate, I was a little unsatisfied. I was ready for second dinner less than an hour later. Even still, I’ll probably go back again because I liked the atmosphere, the staff was great, and I want to try the other things on the menu — I’ll just be prepared to eat my arm later on.

Afterward, we went to the Carnegie Library lecture hall to see one of my favorite female vocalists, Julien Baker. Ugh, I have been dying to see her live for years now but something always comes up when she’s here. I thought I was going to end up going to see her alone because I don’t know anyone else who likes her and Henry was a hard nope, but it ended up coinciding perfectly with Alisha’s visit. She was my concert buddy when she lived in Pittsburgh back in the day and I was so excited to have another good music night with her!

Alisha was all frenzied because she wasn’t sure if we were allowed to park in the lot she chose, and then she was mad because we walked some totally long-ass way to get to the lecture hall when we could have taken a much shorter route, but I was selfishly happy about this because I needed the steps since it was week one of the Law Firm Walking Challenge (OH, I HAVE AN UPDATE ABOUT THIS TOO, CHECK BACK LATER) and I was kicking myself for planning an evening of DINNER and a SEATED CONCERT. Alisha was miserable because she had a bad cold and here I was, walking her around Oakland on a super chilly April night.

When we arrived, she was immediately annoyed because the young girls checking tickets at the door were all googly-eyed over my knack for accessorizing and then we stood in the bathroom waiting for the two occupied stalls to open up and then the bathroom door slowly started to open on its own and we were like WTF SCOOBY, GHOSTS!? but here it turned out Alisha had leaned on the handicap door opening button.

And then a few minutes later, we realized that only one of the stalls had been occupied that whole time, so that was cool.

“I should have known it was going to be a night full of stupid things,” Alisha sighed, insinuating that my presence draws this stuff out!?

Whatever!

Anyway, we found some good seats nice and close (BUT NOT TOO CLOSE) in the first row off the floor. Alisha was whining about why it hadn’t started yet and I was like, “Because it’s only 7. We have another hour.”

LOL Alisha thought it started at 7 that whole time and was so angry that now we had to sit in this growing-more-stifling-by-the-minute room. She amused herself by spying on a man who apparently looked at me twice after I said “bless you” to Alisha so she was convinced he was obsessed with me but clearly I think she was obsessed with him! He kept pretending like he was waiting for someone but then no one ever came…

Then people attempted to speak to Alisha and I thought she was going to will herself to incinerate into a pile of Arkansas ash.

“Why does this always happen? I was doing so good all these years and then I’m with you for like a minute…”

“And the awkward social situations come back?” I laughed, and she emphatically agreed.

It really was an interesting mesh of people there that night though. Lots of punk rock college lesbians, little girls, and old guys.

And us.

Tancred was the opener and I really don’t have much to say about them because I have tried so hard over the years to like them, especially when I got more into that Bledfest-type of scene, but I just can’t. The singer is fine but her voice doesn’t evoke a single emotion from me and the lyrics are kind of middle school diary.

But Julien though….

She performed mostly alone until closer to the end of her set, when her friend came out to accompany her on violin. I didn’t take any video and this picture is actually Alisha’s, because I kind of felt paralyzed with regurgitating grief and realized at one point that I was barely breathing.

Julien has this poignant and measured way of singing the most delicate, whispered notes and then, before you have time to prepare yourself, she is lurching her head back and full-blown power-vocals are roaring out of her small frame and sucking up all the oxygen in the room. She will leave you fucking breathless.

So, there’s this thing about me that you should know, and it’s that, as much as I love words, the lyrics of songs usually come secondary for me. It’s the music itself that heals me first and foremost, it’s what gets my heart started, the tears flowing. And then it’s the tone of the voice singing against that music. I have to laugh a little bit because when I was super into the post-hardcore and screamo scene, people would ask me how could I tell what they were saying? And I would say, “I can’t, and it doesn’t matter, because it’s still touching me.” And now, I get the same question because 99.9% of what I listen to is in Korean. And again, it’s the same thing. It doesn’t matter to me what they’re saying, because the music, and the sound of their voices singing in that perfect language, fills my heart with joy that I haven’t felt in such a long time.

But yet, Julien is the rare exception for me. Because I AM listening to her words. And they are slicing through my wrists like a rusty razor. To write the songs she writes…and to sing them with such brittle sincerity and honesty…you have to have a lot of pain in your life. I can’t imagine standing there on a stage in front of so many adoring fans, stripping down to your bare, aching soul, letting us all watch you relive whatever you were going through when these songs came to fruition. She gave us a gift that night, and I will forever cherish it!

This is one of my favorite songs. Careful, she might break your heart.

And then we thought we were going to have to live in the parking lot because one of the parking ticket machines wasn’t working right and traffic was all backed up and we blamed Henry for not driving us.

“You never asked?” he replied to my text. WELL, HE SHOULD HAVE JUST KNOWN TO DO IT!

And don’t you worry – I came home at 11pm and still managed to eke out 20,000 steps.

Mar 272018
 

Here are some photos from our morning at Namdaemun Market, which is a sprawling traditional market. You can get everything from fresh fish to Supreme knock-offs, street food to G-Dragon posters, unless you’re with Henry who will act like a tight-wad dad every time you want to buy something and then throw all the money at you when you remind him that it’s your money and he’s just holding it. NOT THAT THIS HAPPENED.

You gotta allow for one blow-out a day when traveling with your family, I guess.

Once we got that out of the way, the rest of our time in Namdaemun was swell!

My favorite part was when Henry asked someone from the tourist information center where the market was and in the politest way possible, she circled it on the map instead of just flat-out saying, “You’re standing in it, dumbass.”

Being a Tuesday morning, it wasn’t overwhelmingly crowded, but i can only imagine what this place is like on a weekend.

The lady selling dduk kept saying, “Cute, so cute” to Chooch. Later in the day, we were in one of many subway stations of the day (Henry is turning us into mole people because he always second-guesses himself and then we have to stop while he stares at the subway map for so many minutes), Chooch was going to sit down while waiting for the train, but two older men sat down first. There were still two empty seats so they were like, “No, sit! Sit!” and I shooed him back over there because people were being friendly and that is always such a relief to encounter in a foreign country! So he was sitting with these two ahjussis, and only one spoke a bit of English, so he just kept saying, “Handsome boy!” to Chooch and asked him general questions like his age and where he’s from, and then he would relay the gathered intel back to his non-English-speaking friend. Then another ahjussi came over and they were saying “Handsome boy!” to him and pointing at Chooch. We all got on the train together, but our stop was before theirs so they waved and said goodbye to Chooch which was just the cutest thing in the whole world. I love old guys so much (insert Henry joke) because I see my Pappap in so many of them.

“I wish the guys here in their 20s would say ‘Pretty girl!’ to me as much as you get ‘handsome boy’ said to you,” I whined to Chooch and he was so disgusted.

Anyway, back to Namdaemun!

Ugh, handsome boy.

When we first got to Namdaemun, we walked through this narrow alley full of street food vendors and actual restaurants. An elderly woman started excitedly calling out to us in Korean, waving her arm toward the doorway of her restaurant while pointing at all of the dishes she had available. She was so adorable, but it was only 10:30 and we weren’t ready for lunch yet.

However, we kept her in mind and instead of filling up on fried goods, we made our way back to her alley and she happily ushered us inside and suggested various tables for us to sit. She had so much energy!

What a great decision. I got mandu and dduk soup and it was exactly what I needed. I don’t know what Henry got, and Chooch ordered sticky noodles which came with a whopping dollop of gochujang, but that kid powered through like a champ. He is really trying! We were so worried about what he was going to eat here because he is notoriously picky, and he usually will pout if we go somewhere he doesn’t want to be.

One of the ahjummas brought him a fork, lol.

This place was LEGIT. Each table had a freaking pot of kimchi.

As we were leaving, I turned around to take a photo, and that sweet lady totally was waiting for it. Look at her back there smiling!

Be back later!

Sep 112017
 

Here is one of those stories that starts out with, “Henry was so mad!” when I’m telling someone in real life, and then it takes 30 minutes to get to the part that made Henry mad.

So a few months ago, maybe the end of May, beginning of June, I was walking down Brookline Boulevard when I noticed that the old BBQ joint had newspaper taped to the windows, with coffee cups and burgers hand-drawn all over. There were also random “P”s drawn on it, and a word bubble that said, “Coming soon.”

I was mildly excited, but really how often do I patronize any Brookline establishments? I figured it was going to be another meat place, because that’s all that seems to ever go into that one spot. BBQ meat. Southern soul meat. Meat meat. Whatever the latest meat trend is.

But then one day as I walking by, I was looking at those “P”s and I thought to myself, “THOSE Ps LOOK FAMILIAR.” It eventually occurred to me that it looked similar to the font used by this sandwich shop in Dormont that Chooch and I like.

“CHOOCH, I THINK PARKER’S IS OPENING A LOCATION ON BROOKLINE BLVD,” I screamed to him as I flung open the front door, all out of breath from my courageous journey home to desperately deliver to him this wild speculation.

Chooch was excited, because we love Parker’s! But we still weren’t sure this was a thing that was happening. I kept stalking them on social media until finally, weeks and weeks after my first Velma-in-an-orange-turtleneck hunch, there was an official announcement on their Facebook page that they were moving to a larger location in Brookline. I love being right! Save me a seat in the Mystery van, yo.

This commenced a summer-long waiting game. The “coming soon” was never replaced with a date, but eventually, two peep holes were made in the newspaper on the windows, into which Chooch and I peered around cupped hands, like two little orphans hungrily ogling a porridge shop.

“You guys are pathetic,” Henry sighed, not giving in to any peeping desires.

“We love Parker’s!” Chooch yelled.

“You wouldn’t understand!” I spat. “You’ve never been there!”

“Well, you two have only been there like three times and act like you’re regulars there,” Henry tried to reason but I saw right this and determined that HE’S JUST JEALOUS. HATERS GON’ HATE. SHAKE IT OFF.

#WhatWouldTSwiftSay

“Twice, actually,” I said, and Henry just threw his arms up to the Heavens and walked away in defeat.

I don’t really know why Chooch and I had only gone to Parker’s twice though, because we really enjoyed our experience there: the sandwiches (with pop culture-friendly names, like the Regina George, Shooter McGavin, Piano Necktie…), the ambiance (group convos galore!), and most importantly: the proprietor, Parker himself. Every time (ALL TWO TIMES) Chooch and I were there, he looped us into the counter conversation and made us feel like we were a part of something.

Being included in the reindeer games is basically all I want out of life, so this made Parker’s extremely appealing to me.

And yet, we only went twice. I think it was mostly because we usually eat out for dinner, and Parker’s is one of those joints that closes early, like at 3pm. And on weekends, if we’re going out for lunch, we’re already out and about in some other area, not in our neighborhood.

Excuses, excuses.

And it’s not like the old Parker’s was so out of the way. It was actually probably the same distance away from our house as the new one is. Brace yourselves for my super high-quality map that I drew today at my desk specifically to illustrate to…someone, I hope…exactly where my house is in relation to each location:

The first time Chooch and I went to Parker’s was Black Friday, 2014, and then a year later with Janna.

Two whole times. But you’d think we ate there so much, they named a grilled cheese after us. Or at the very least that Parker kept my senior picture in his wallet like my favorite waitress from Denny’s did when I was in high school. Oh, Maryann.

I was off two Fridays ago, because that’s the day we left for Chicago (much later in the day than planned, though). I went for a walk that morning and saw some people going into Parker’s! I rubbernecked on my way past and sure enough, the lights were on and there people at some of the tables! Some broad from the deli next door was outside smoking a cigarette.

“Looks like they’re finally open!” she said in the expected husky bray of a Pittsburgh smoker. “I been waiting all summer for this!”

“Did you ever eat there when it was in Dormont?” I asked.

“No, I never even heard of it before!” she coughed.

“It’s so good!” I said, calling on my old telemarketer’s enthusiasm (I was a fucking excelsior telemarketer back in the day). “And the guy who owns it is so nice!”

The broad said she was even more excited to check it out now, and I waited until she was out of earshot to call Henry and giddily tell him this transgression.

“YOU ONLY ATE THERE TWICE!” he yelled.

Sadly, we were gone that whole weekend, and since they close at 3 every day, we didn’t get a chance to check out the new digs until this past weekend. I was SO EXCITED to wake up Sunday morning and walk there.

“Wow, you and Chooch must be so happy to visit your old stomping grounds,” Henry said, tufts of sarcasm unfurling from his flaring nostrils.

I mean, yeah. Yeah, we were.

We were practically skipping, locked arms, with a rainbow underfoot.

We walked in around 9am and I was totally floored by the design of the space. It is DOPE. Exactly the type of place that Brookline needs! I was still in the middle of looking all around and silently saying, “WOOOOOOOOOW” when the man himself, Luke Parker, came out from behind the counter and said to Chooch and me, “Where the hell have you guys been?!”

LOL HENRY WAS SO MAD! All that build-up, acting like we were regulars, and the owner actually remembered us! Henry was like, “HOW. HOW HOW HOW.” Oh my friends, it was so satisfying! He even came over and talked to us (i.e. just me and Chooch) about the trials and tribs of moving to this new spot, adding to the menu, needing to hire more people — it sounds like the first week was a success and they haven’t even had their official grand opening yet, as far as I could tell. I’m so glad for the whole Parker clan!

“You two must have really made an impression,” Henry mumbled.

Somehow, the breakfast sandwich I ordered tasted even better than I remembered: egg whites, avocado, sprouts, tomato and mayo on a whole wheat bagel. Plus a cup of delicious Zeke’s coffee, which I spilled over myself because I didn’t have the lid on right and Henry was all, “Haha, serves you right.” I’d last through approximately one coffee order if I ever got a job as a barista.

I’m excited to frequent this place more often, especially now that it’s in an area where I do most of my walking. Even if I’m just popping in for a cup of coffee. I want this place to succeed so badly. I’m going to bring all my friends here. Who wants to go?

I’d tell you that if you ever stop there for a pop culture sandwich, to tell ’em that Erin & Chooch sent ya, but we’re not on a name-knowing basis there yet.

YET.

I’m not giving up on my grilled cheese namesake dream. My goals are askew.

Sep 102017
 

On Saturday, we had donuts and coffee at some point while in Chicago. I’m not a big donut connoisseur by any stretch, but that might be because Pittsburgh doesn’t really have much to offer in that vein. (Although I still haven’t tried Duck Donuts and that place seems appealing to me.)

(And please don’t say BUT PEACE, LOVE, LITTLE DONUTS because I fucking refuse to support an establishment owned by a homophobic bigot piece of shit. It saddens me how many pieces have seemed to either overlook that or have forgotten. But I never forget!)

I wanted to try Firecakes though because they’re reknown for their donut ice cream sandwiches. Unforch, we stopped here right after eating pizza and I did not have it in me to find room in my stomach next to all that cheese. Ugh. I always have big plans of visiting a city and eating all their trendy food and then end up only eating two meals. 

(Honestly, aside from breakfast in Indiana that morning, the late lunch pizza was only sit-down meal for the day in Chicago.)

If there is anything pistachio on the menu, I will snatch that shit up without a secondary glance. This Sicilian pistachio old-fashioned was a DELIGHT. My donut preference is light and non-messy. Nothing filled. I hate filled donuts! And I’m not big into chocolate-y ones either. I like ones that get most of the flavor from the actual donut dough, and that’s how this one was. Not too sweet, with a gentle, light-handed pistachio nuance. #doucheyYelpreview

I didn’t want to share, but I did because I wanted to try Henry’s which was good but messy and filled. :( It was butterscotch praising, which I almost ordered but now I’m glad I didn’t because that pistachio was everything I wanted in that moment. 

(I just stared dreaming at the photo of it for a couple seconds into the Inappropriate Zone.)

Chooch got a red velvet but I didn’t try his because, I can’t believe I’m going to say this, I think I’m over red velvet. We had a long, good run together though! 

Later that evening, we hit up Goddess and the Baker because it was the only non-Starbucks cafe open at that hour within walking distance. Henry hated  it immediately because he hates coffee and everything about that scene. Chooch was down though because he’s a hot chocolate aficionado. 

I got a pourover and later had major order-remorse when I noticed the specialty drink menu — so many interesting flavored lattes that appealed to me! I’m really into honey, floral, and maple—not all in one latte, but you know…if I wander into a coffee joint that has those options beyond your standard pumpkin spice and caramel, I will happily overlook the pretentious third wave coffee klatch I’m inevitably walking in on. 

(Speaking of, there is a place here in Bloomfield that has an impressive list of housemade floral syrups and maybe I’ll stop there today—YOU DONT KNOW MY SCHEDULE!)

That pourover was delicious though. However, while I was waiting for it, some suspicious guy walked in, came right up to me because why wouldn’t he, and said something like, “Excuse me, miss” and then a bunch of words in a tone entirely too low for me or most normal-eared humans to possibly hear. I panicked because he had a very questionable aura to him so I blurted, “I DONT HAVE ANYTHING IM SORRY” because I assumed that he was asking for money or my pledge to Christ. 

There was a moment of uncertainty where I was braced for a knife in the gut, but then he nodded and walked slowly back out onto the street. 

I kee expecting this sign to say “eat now caffeinate later” and that would just be so fucking wrong. 

Overall, I would go back to both of these places in Chicago (they each have multiple locations, too) and probably would try to save room for a donut ice cream sandwich next time because I have The Regrets. 

Thank you. This has been a coffee and donut intermission.