Apr 102023
 

Before I even attempt to get into the meaty NCT portion of our whirlwind Chicago trip, I want to give a shout out to Henry for HEARING ME this time, diligently mapping out the places I wanted to hit up, and being my emotional support punching bag for all the times pre- and post-concert when my feelings would come squirting out in all sorts of ADORABLE ways. I was so afraid we were going to have a replay of Toronto but believe me when I say it, Becky, we had zero fights. NONE! NONE FIGHTS!

I mean, sure, his breathing and chewing got on my nerves occasionally but that happens everywhere, it’s not location-specific.

Since Chooch wasn’t with us, we didn’t want to hang around Chicago TOO long the day after the show, but I definitely wanted to go to this cafe I’ve been following for a while now, ever since an artist (the creator of my favorite Pee Wee wood art that now lives in my kitchen!) posted about them on Instagram because they too have one of his awesome works on the wall! But yeah, this place is called The Brewed and it’s a horror-themed cafe which is obviously going to be my jimmy-jam.

I believe it’s in the Avondale section of Chicago, do with that information what you will.

First, we had to walk under this toothy awning, and of course I was obsessed. I made sure to walk on the other side of the street on the way back so I could get the full experience. I love my dentist so much (like, LOOOOVE him) but he really needs to step up his signage game, man.

I actually wouldn’t mind having this attached to my house, if we’re being honest. I wonder if HNC & Co. would appreciate that.

Trust me, it would be an improvement on the neon beer signs in the window and ugly-ass whirligig things that ROB has erected all across his yard.

The Brewed! I made Henry go in first because I always make other people enter places before me. YOU NEVER KNOW.

Right off the bat, I want to say that the vibe was chill and friendly. Like, the lowkey, quiet friendly that you’d get if you were just having a convo with your work friends – that’s what it felt like. The baristas were already engaged in a conversation when we walked in and somehow made it feel like we weren’t interrupting them while immediately turning their attention to us. I didn’t feel rushed or like an outcast, which is something that is probably just in my head but I swear to god it’s how I feel 75% of the places I walk into.

I got a vegan glazed from Beacon Donuts and I am still thinking about this fucker. I always say that I’m not a big donut aficionado and prefer a simple sugar or glazed if I’m going to have one at all, but they usually don’t satiate me. This glazed? THIS GLAZED?? It was SUBSTANTIAL. Oh, I am so depressed just thinking about it and knowing that Beacon is so far away from me, because I actually think this might have been the best glazed, vegan or otherwise, that I have ever had in my life.

That, paired with the FLAMING ORANGE mocha in celebration of Trump’s arraignment, and I was feeling pretty fucking good.

You can see the Billy Lilly monster art piece above that blue cabinet!

Fuck. I loved the whole aesthetic of this place. It’s one thing to go full goth if your theme is “horror,” but I do prefer the kitchy, rockabilly classic monster direction that The Brewed went with. Plus, my eyeballs have a crush on the lime green / purple color palette.

And the Hausu nod on the bathroom door back there!

Oh come on, put this on a shirt for me, please. Paint this on the hood of my car.

We also bought a set of horror-themed macarons from Bad Channels, which are sold at The Brewed. These flavors were Trolls II (pistachio), The Blob (PB&J) and MOTHERFUCKING CHILDREN OF THE CORN which is the one I have been coveting from Bad Channels IG feed and I am so stoked it was available. All of them were little fireworks of flavor, but that corn one, holy shit. I LOVE corn-y desserts and sweets so this was already halfway up my alley before I even tasted it.

I was happy with these but Henry thought they were too expensive. I don’t know the going rate for macarons, but 6 of these were like $18. Is that a lot, y or n. I thought that macarons were just $$$ by default because they’re so pretentious and Frenchy, but I don’t know anything about ingredient costs and inflation, etc etc etc.

Henry was buying delicious tamales from a food vendor at a farmer’s market while I took this picture. We saved the tamales for later and ate them at a rest stop on the drive home. We got a poblano & cheese, and SWEET CORN. I thought that were really good but Henry was like being so over the top about it, like, OK we get it, they’re the best tamales you’ve had since the Service or whatever.

Ugh, the only other thing I REALLY wanted to do was go to Pie Pie My Darling which is a vegan bakery and apparently voted best cake in Chicago. However, you can’t just go there, you have to pre-order and then pick it up after the bakery opens at 11am on Saturdays, but we had wanted to be on the road before that. There are several places around the city that sells their stuff, and that weekend the big special was carrot cake, and Chooch LOVES carrot cake. So I thought that would be nice to bring home for him. We went to Liberation Kitchen, which was on the list, but you had to buy the whole cake, slices weren’t available. :( We didn’t want to leave with nothing so we each got a donut. I got the lemon poppyseed donut because 50% of the proceeds from that flavor sold this month go to the Syrian American Medical Society. The donut was good. I wasn’t head over heels for it, but I was happy to contribute to a good cause, so it all evened out in the end.

I forget what Henry got. Flapjack or something. It was good! But these were not even close to Beacon Doughnuts-levels of Morning Dessert Greatness. Next time I go to Chicago, I’m not walking I’m running, to Beacon Doughnuts. Plus, it’s an alley walk-up, which is strangely appealing to me.

Anyway, that was all for us. I gently suggested that we go to Bean just to see if NCT Dream was there, but Henry was like THEY ARE PROBABLY ALREADY ON THEIR WAY TO ATLANTA DO NOT ASK ME AGAIN.

And then we drove home, which was pretty uneventful. We literally just listened to NCT Dream, talked about NCT Dream, cried about NCT Dream, relived NCT Dream the whole way home. SIGH.

Mar 172023
 

I was so nervous about getting into line for the Kang Daniel show because we were general admission / floor and the line was already long. I’m glad we ended up eating a small meal beforehand because the energy was needed!

(Also, the font somehow keeps changing on me so please enjoy. Maybe I should also change the color as I go along too, throwback to LiveJournal circa 2001. Add a MIDI file to the background.)

The line snaked all the way down the block and was just started to round a corner by the time we reached the end. And then it proceeded to grow longer and longer as we waited for 7pm to roll on up. Everyone in line was very chill and it wouldn’t have been so bad if it hadn’t been SO FUCKING COLD. I was so unprepared, even after checking the weather before leaving Pgh, where we had been enjoying False Spring. Mary, I was wearing a denim jacket and Vans with whatever the next step up from PEDS is. I was icing over, practically. Shivering so hard that my body vibrato was visible to all who looked at me.

A gallant man, had he been my boyfriend, would have maybe wrapped one MAYBE TWO arms around me to help warm me up a bit. Not my gentleman friend! Nope nope nope, gotta stay chaste and platonic-appearing. Armspan apart. Really how did we not break up on this overnighter?!

Shortly after getting into line, a girl walked up to us and asked, “ARE YOU HERE FOR KANG DANIEL?” I said yes and she handed me a little packet of photocards. Then she asked Henry and tucked one into his hand too, I was dying lol. He never gets kpop swag!

Anyway, this was really cool because in addition to the Kang Daniel photocard that had the tour info on the back as a keepsake (this was awesome to have especially since you can’t really get physical concert tickets for most shows anymore and SOME OF US ARE PACKRATS who keep boxes of paper mementos but OK), each packet also contained a photocard of one of Kang Daniel’s dancers!

Mine was Taehee, and Henry got Kyujin who apparently was replaced on the tour with LilDae after Kyujin switched to the role of “performance director” instead. Here’s what the back of the cards said:

Isn’t that the cutest idea?? I definitely tagged Taehee in one of the reels I posted that night, lol. I love shit like this.

Meanwhile, there was a single white guy in front of us. I’ll guestimate that he was in his early 30s perhaps. Almost immediately after getting into line right before us, an Asian girl (based on context clues from their convo, I think she was Chinese) turned to him and ask, “Excuse me, can I ask you a question? So, what brought you here tonight?”

The man said that Kang Daniel was actually recommended to him on Spotify recently and he really liked what he heard. I wasn’t TRYING to spy on their convo, but they were legit right in front of me and it’s not like Henry was entertaining me at all. From what I pieced together, his wife is Korean (?? I think ??) and he is no stranger to kpop. He seemed to lean more toward the girl groups though, while his standing-in-line partner was really into older kpop and mostly boy groups. I was happy to hear her say that she didn’t care much for BTS aside from two songs (“Save Me” – same girl, and “Fake Love”) and that she only started to listen to Kang Daniel the day before, having just a bought a ticket based on the fact that she didn’t want to miss out on any concerts anymore after Covid. Valid!

I kept looking at the poeple sitting inside the Tim Horton’s next to me as a means to stop eavesdropping, but then I was just getting mad because they all looked so warm and cozy with their hot bevvies and donuts.

It was so cold, yo. Plus, Toronto had recently had a snow storm (I originally typed “stormstorm,” please book my brain a room in a detox resort ASAP) that weekend so there were random snowbanks along the sidewalk which just made it seem even colder.

I was not a fan of this.

The line still hadn’t moved after a good 30 minutes, even though it was nearly 7pm by then. The girl in front of us had dropped her Kang Daniel packet so I picked it up and handed it to her. Now she was aware of my existence.

“Excuse me, can I ask you a question?” she started and I was so excited that someone was finally talking to me! I said SURE with probably definitely way too much zeal, to which of course she asked me what brought me there.

I told her in great detail that I had been a fan of Wanna One. “Who was your top pick?” she asked, and I said, “Well, I didn’t watch Produce 101 (the elimination show that Wanna One was born from) but out of Wanna One, Kang Daniel.”

Then she started asking me all of the “Do you know….” questions and luckily I am DEEP IN THE GAME so I was able to yes to everything. She asked if I was going to be going to any other upcoming concerts and I gushed, “OMG NCT DREAM I HOPE!! IF I CAN GET A TICKET!!”

She smiled calmly and said, “Oh, you will you get your ticket, don’t worry!” AND MAYBE SHE IS THE REASON I DID – IS SHE MY KPOP GODMOTHER?? So then we talked about NCT and she asked who my top pick is for that and that’s when I realized she was saying “pick” instead of bias – I never heard that before but I liked it! It made me feel like we were talking about sports, lol.

I told her Ten is my top pick across the whole NCT universe and she exclaimed, “REALLY?” like it was shocking for some reason, but it also made me feel like she was acknowledging the fact that I actually do know my NCTshit, and also I think it’s assumed maybe that most non-Asians tend to pick Korean members as their biases, but two of my top NCT picks are Chinese and Thai.

“Do you like SHINee?” I asked her and she said yes so we started talking about them, Taemin, and SuperM, which she didn’t get to see.

“But it’s OK because Baekhyun is my top pick and I got to see him with EXO,” she said, and that made me happy for her.

Meanwhile, the white guy kept occasionally joining in too because he was interested in the fact that Henry and I came from Pittsburgh for this show. “And you like him too?” one of them asked Henry and GUESS WHAT HE SAID YES.

Then the occasional person would stop and ask our general vicinity of the line what everyone was waiting for and then would say WOW I HAVE NEVER SEEN A LINE THIS LONG FOR THIS VENUE or something else to that effect. The power of kpop, you guys. Kang Daniel probably could have managed to play a bigger venue, honestly!

Now the line was moving but I wasn’t ready to stop talking so I blurted out, “ACTUALLY, MY ALL TIME TOP PICK IS G-DRAGON!”

I fucking swear to god, this girl turned around, looked me up and down with a smirk and said, “Of course he is.”

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?!!? LOLOLOLOL!

And then she said, “But….actually, I feel sorry for you—” and yo, she didn’t even need to finish that statement because I feel sorry for me too and all BIGBANG fans out there. It is literally the most depressing fandom to be a part of.

By now, the line was moving swiftly, and we got through security quickly and without incident. When we were waiting for our turn though, a VERY ATTRACTIVE Korean guy in a super cool white satin baseball-type of jacket with cool embroidering on the back came out of the venue and was talking to a girl in Korean. I was like, “WHO IS THIS GUY, HE LOOKS LIKE HE COULD BE AN IDOL” and we found out once the show started that he was one of the dancers – I WISH I HAD GOTTEN HIS CARD, OMG HE WAS SO CUTE.

Anyway. *clears throat*

It was really nice talking to these people in line – I love kpop fans. All those other concerts I used to stand in line for and most people were either too cool for school or just total assholes that I didn’t want to talk to anyway. But people at kpop concerts are so nice. I will say that way less people in my life give me shit for liking kpop these days as they did in the beginning, but it is still so very comforting to be surrounded by all these people who share your love for Korea and its music. Just this moment alone was enough to turn the whole day around, and I knew that once we got inside, it was destined to get even better.

Mar 132023
 

OK my post titles get dumber and dumber. You can agree, it’s fine.

Last week’s overnighter in Toronto was so chaotic and disjointed. Truly, the only really good, pure, magical moment was the Kang Daniel concert so I’m going to save that for last. Considering that this was the sole reason for the trip, this was the only thing that really needed to be EXCELLENT, and the rest was just extra. So for now, I’ll recap the things we ate on Wednesday before coming back to Pittsburgh, leaving out the sidewalk bickering, bleeding blister from so much walking, etc. etc. I really don’t know what my fucking problem was aside from the fact that I was so offended that Henry doesn’t pay attention to what I tell him! HE SINGLE-HANDEDLY GOT EVERYTHING WRONG, BOTH DAYS. HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN? OH, BECAUSE SOMEONE DOESN’T LISTEN.

There was a vegan Japanese bakery that I wanted to go to for breakfast, and a cafe that we were supposed to have gone to the day before but Henry is LE DUMBZ0RZ so we were supposed to go to these places on Wednesday. Breakfast at the Japanese place, then coffee, then head over to a vegan bakery to take some stuffz home.

LONG STORY SHORT: Henry thought we were only going to the cafe, had us take a subway, transfer, and then walk a million blocks to the wrong place and this is where I once again proceeded to walk far ahead of him because I feared that if we walked together, I might push him in front of a streetcar and I am much too delicate to go to prison.

So: lots of anger. This is what you missed from me last Wednesday morning.

Then it was CALL AN UBER, NEVER MIND, I’M JUST GOING TO WALK, WHY HAVEN’T YOU CALLED AN UBER, HOW FAR AWAY IS THE CAR, OMG YOU’RE SO FUCKING CHEAP, YOU CAN’T EVEN GET AN UBER and he’s like, “I can’t get an Uber if you don’t STOP WALKING.”

Anyway, this went on and on and on until we ended up in Chinatown and walked past a place called TRUE BREAKFAST which I found out later has all one star ratings on Yelp (FWIW, there are only 5 ratings and it only just opened, so…) and maybe that’s so but it will always live on in my heart as the place with the toast that saved our relationship, lol.

I had black sesame, and Henry had coconut cream. Aside from a guy who came in after us and ordered takeout, and two UberEats pickups, we were the only people dining in and it took an absurdly long time for our toast to be made, which was confounding to me because….toast. But still, it was delicious. I love Asian breads so much. I believe this place was specifically Taiwanese.

I was OK after this, almost for our entire walk back to where we parked in Koreatown. The whole reason we parked there was because there were several shops I like that I wanted to hit up before we left, but nothing was open yet! One of the shops opened literally in like 4 minutes, but I was already back IN A MOOD so I stormed off and said LET’S JUST LEAVE WHERE ARE YOU GOING WHY CAN’T YOU JUST DRIVE TO THE CAFE I WANTED TO GO TO NEVER MIND JUST GO HOME WOW I CAN’T BELIEVE WE’RE JUST GOING TO LEAVE YOU RUINED THIS WHOLE TRIP I HATE TORONTO I NEVER WANT TO COME BACK.

And then Henry found a parking spot literally right around the corner from Milky’s, the cafe on my list, so I was momentarily satiated.

Was it worth it? I mean, the maple latte was really fucking good and the barista was super cute and I watched a sweet old lady happily buy a chocolate chip cookie there with a handful of change, so yeah – it was nice.

It doesn’t matter if Henry liked it.

By now, I was a lot calmer having had food AND caffeine. Having a boyfriend who listens to me (and maybe proposes after less than 21 years) would have done a lot to improve my mood too but WE CAN’T HAVE IT ALL.

Next, we stopped in the Kensington Market area to go to Bunner’s, a vegan bakery that I have wanted to go to for quite some time now. I had mentioned it approx. 87 times to Henry prior to even leaving our house last week but for some reason, his failure to hear me had him completely eradicating Bunner’s from the itinerary both days. Every time I reminded him of its existence, he acted like it was the first time hearing about it.

Listen, Pedro – it’s like, we crossed the border and suddenly Henry was a champion abuser of gas lamps. He was driving me absolutely insane. He was drawing me closer and closer to the edge with every second I was near him in Toronto

Henry IS the yellow wallpaper.

But finally, Bunner’s! The girl working that day was really chill and didn’t make us feel rushed or unwelcome which, I’m sorry, is something that we tend to encounter quite frequently in vegan establishments. I specifically wanted to come here because after all the previous times we have been to Canada, I had NEVER heard of Nanaimo bars until recently. It’s apparently like the national treat of Canada! And Bunner’s has a vegan version!

We got 2 of those, a cookie (I will admit that the cookie was just OK), some chocolate overkill cupcake and a carrot cake cupcake for Chooch. I think that’s all we got? Henry and I shared one of the Nanaimo bars in the car and GOOD LORD, I’m an official stan. If we have another pie party, Henry is making a tray of these bitches.

Here’s what they look like from Bunner’s:

Nanaimo Bar

I want one right now.

Then we walked around and I got that clown masterpiece that I posted about the other day.

A few weeks ago, we had watched some vlog on YouTube where this couple went to a donut shop in St. Catherine’s and their reaction to every donut was a very serious exultation of THAT’S FUCKED UP. Henry and I couldn’t tell if that was good or bad? Turns out, once their eyes rolled back to the front and they stopped making gaping fish faces, it meant that these were the best vegan donuts that they ever had. So the day before, we ordered several to pick up on our way home.

ST. CATHERINE’S SQUIRREL.

The donut shop is called Beechwood Donuts.

I spotted this place across the street though and made the unilateral decision that we needed to get an empanada to go because all we had had that day was SUGAR and I needed something substantial. Um, I got a vegan one and Henry got RANDOM MEAT and we both agreed that these were like the sleeper hit of the trip. Maybe it was just because our bodies were starved for something without sugar, who knows. But yeah, I immediately wished that I had ordered two.

Planning his next gas lighting attempt.

In the actual picture, he’s smiling, but I adjusted the live version and stopped it on a frame where he looked the worst :)

The donuts! I took this once we got home and dug into them with Chooch. They were….not fucked up. But decent. The matcha blueberry and carrot cake fritter were my faves. Oh and the raspberry cronut was also delectable, but nothing that made me wish I lived in St. Catherines and I don’t even think I would make the slight detour the next time we’re heading to Toronto. It takes A LOT to impress me when it comes to donuts! I’m mostly just a classic sugar or glazed gal, anyway.

The only other notable thing that happened on Wednesday was when we stopped at a Tim Hortons on our way to pick up the donuts, I was waiting for Henry to use the bathroom when two teenaged boys approached me. Immediately, my guard went up because I am always prepared for the worst when it comes to kids. ARE THEY GOING TO MAKE FUN OF ME? ARE THEY GOING TO PICKPOCKET ME?

ARE THEY GOING TO CALL ME M’AAM??

These are all concerns.

But it was none of these. They wanted to know if I knew “Super Fan” who it turns out is apparently the Raptors #1 fan, has gone to every game since the 90s. And of course I don’t know who he is, I am American, I don’t know of these Canadian pop culture icons, let alone any person associated with basketball in general. They showed me his picture like this was going to help jog my m’aam-ish mind.

I still didn’t know who the hell they were talking about, but they were really excited because apparently he was in Tim Horton’s the day before and they got to meet him. I guess they just wanted to share this excitement with someone but I wouldn’t be lying if I didn’t suspect that they were planting some sort of graffiti crime evidence on me or taping a FAT GIRL sign to my back.

Henry came out of the bathroom and gave me an OK STOP TALKING TO YOUNG BOYS AND GET IN THE CAR smirk.

“Congratulations on meeting him,” I said as Henry whisked me away.

“They were in the bathroom when I went in,” Henry said. “One of them had hand sanitizer in his eye and the other was trying to help him rinse it out,” he laughed.

This checked out because when I first saw them on my way out of the bathroom, they were at the counter giving a hand sanitizer bottle some hearty pumps while one of them was exclaiming, “I hate germs!”

It was an eventful pee/coffee break.

Anyway, this is the guy they were talking about – I guess he really is a local celeb:

'I'm living a dream': Raptors victory parade takes over Toronto | CBC News

Mar 122023
 

My liveblog was so janky from the day we were in Toronto and some of the stuff I had written didn’t post because of service issues and I truthfully was so annoyed that I didn’t feel like even attempting to retype what I had lost. But basically what happened was that we were supposed to have a decent chunk of time Tuesday afternoon to visit at least 2 places on my TO DO LIST (a cafe and a bakery – v. important places). I even made sure to pick two that were in the same area so that we could easily to hit up both. But then we ended up getting in a bit later than I anticipated, and the hotel that Henry had booked was actually a little bit PAST Toronto proper, so that took even more time away. Then we had to check-in, Henry had to answer WORK TEXTS which is my LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT HENRY’S JOB, like he is not a fucking hedge fund guy, you know? There is no reason he should be getting work texts on his day off, ESPECIALLY WHEN HE IS EVEN OUT OF THE COUNTRY.

So immediately, my mood soured. It flipped a switch in my brain and I went from being rearin’ to go to itchin’ for a fight. So I became super disagreeable. Literally kept flinging myself facedown on the bed and screaming JUST FORGET IT. So this was about an hour of that. What it also boiled down to is that I needed caffeine and sugar. Bigly.

Finally, Henry got me to put my coat on and we set off for the Danforth Music Hall, because Henry’s plan was to park there and take the subway to the cafe/bakery destination. So we did this with little conflict, but then I panicked because it was only 4:00 and there was already a line of people outside of the theater. Our tickets were general admission / floor but I am really just all out endurance when it comes to camping out to get a good spot, so I basically at that point had resigned to the idea of being way in the back, unable to see.

Anyway! The lot we parked in was right next to the subway station so that was nice. Except that Henry parked in a spot that had a HUGE puddle on my side so I couldn’t get out, which caused me to have ANOTHER emotional breakdown and start crying, “I JUST WANT TO GO HOME” and he calmly said, “Let me just pull up and you can get out” and after a bunch of resistance, I finally let him do this so that I could get out of the car without stepping in the puddle.

Then we got on the subway, which was fine. I am OK with the subways in Toronto. But  what Henry didn’t tell me was that we would then have to get on the STREETCAR and after we had a weird experience the first time we used one of those (the driver yelled at us because we didn’t pay correctly or something, I can’t remember but it was embarrassing and I felt like I was in school getting yelled at by a teacher in front of the class and it was humiliating and clearly something that has squatted in my mind ever since). So we got on one that was still idling outside the station, waiting for the departure time, and some guy was sitting in the back loudly screaming about people looking at him or something and then he was calling someone the f-word and it was soooo uncomfortable. Meanwhile, the whole time I was like, “WERE WE SUPPOSE DTO PAY FOR THIS FIRST??” and Henry was like, “No one else did” but then I saw a guy come on and tap his card and I started to SWEAT.

“Maybe we’re supposed to pay when we get off,” Henry said, clearly not worried about this at all, while I sat there scrutinizing every single person that walked on. And then once we started moving, I paid close attention  to everyone who was getting off and still couldn’t tell if we were supposed to tap our card somewhere and also how did we request a stop!?!? I was DYING. Legit wringing my hands. Suffocating on my anxiety. Pubtrans seriously makes me so nervous (EXCEPT FOR THE SEOUL SUBWAY).

Oh, and then!! I realized that at this point, it was 4:50 and BOTH PLACES I WANTED TO GO TO CLOSED AT 5.

“Let’s just get off here, there are plenty of other places around that we could go to,” Henry said at one point when the street car slammed to a stop at a red light and the doors opened. I cannot compute such impromptu instructions so my head was SPINNING as Henry leapt out of his seat and practically swan-dove out the door, and then JUMPED OVER A SNOW BANK to the sidewalk. I ran after him, looking like a thief probably, like, “HEY THAT GIRL JUST SKIPPED OUT ON THE FARE!” literally I was waiting for the driver to come running out looking like Chris Farley in Billy Madison, hollering about calling the Mounties on me.

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None of these things happened, but the street car was still sitting there because of the redlight and I just felt EVERYONE WAS STARING AT US so I FREAKED OUT AND LEFT HENRY. I just turned and started powerwalking in the opposite direction, away from the sreetcar and where we apparently needed to cross the street, and proceeded to WALK ALL THE BACK  TO THE SUBWAY STATION WHERE WE GOT ON THE STREET CAR.

It really wasn’t that far. Maybe a 25-minute walk. Henry trailed behind me the entire way, I refused to let him catch up with me. He kept trying to ask me what was wrong and I cried, “THE WAY YOU JUMPED OUT OF THE STREET CAR LIKE A PETTY CRIMINAL WAS SO EMBARRASSING” and he was like, “The fuck are you talking about?” and OK, now that we’re a week away from the INCIDENT, I am rational enough to admit that perhaps my mind, reeling from lack of essential nutrients (yes, caffeine and sugarssss) perhaps was replaying this scene to me in blown-up proportions best reserved for balloons in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

I can be honest with you about that. Perhaps it was me, sabotaging this entire day because I am being eating alive by stress in all other areas of my life and God forbid I should allow myself to calm down, relax, enjoy myself.

Anyway. We took the subway BACK to the street where the Danforth is located, and I had SORT OF calmed down a little bit by then but was still craving things. I had really just wanted a coffee and baked good, but then we started to walk past a vegan chain called Fresh which I knew a bit about, and I saw CAKES in the window, so I said, “Let’s just go here.”

For some reason, I didn’t realize this was a sit-down and order type of place. I thought it was more of a Panera, but no – as soon as we walked in, we had to wait to be seated and I fought the urge to turn around and leave because Henry HATES it when I do that even though I point out that people do it all the time and just because I walk inside somewhere, doesn’t mean I’m stripped of my right to change my mind!?!??! (Granted, I have also down this after being seated and ordering drinks, so I can see how he would be feeling some type of way every time we enter a restaurant lol.)

I basically willed my mind to just shut down and allowed myself to go with the flow. That’s sad right? That I have to use mind-control on myself to just follow a host to a table? Oh, to be a normal functioning human. What does that feel like!? I guess I could just ask Henry.

RIGHT AWAY, I had to fight another urge to flee because Henry, and I can’t believe he did this, took the seat at the table that was on the banquette side, leaving me to sit in the regular chair with my back exposed to the foot traffic of the restaurant.

I NEVER SIT IN THIS SPOT!!! I ALWAYS HAVE TO HAVE MY BACK TO THE WALL! IT IS THE INNER FBI AGENT IN ME!!!

Oh, I was furious. I think our server could tell too, and I was trying so hard to make friendly eye contact and smile naturally every time I interacted with them.

Now, instead of just getting a dessert, I felt obliged to order actual food. I suggested that we just get an appetizer to share and Henry, knowing he was on THIN ICE, LIKE WE’RE TALKING COMMUNION WAFER-THIN HERE, quickly sputtered, “Whatever you want!”

We agreed on the dumplings, but when the server came back, I said to them with the most confidence I have spoken with in months probably, “We’ll have the ONION RINGS” and then I shot Henry a tight-lipped smile across the table. His expression was priceless. He let out a silent “You bitch” laugh and then said, “Oh, OK. And I guess I will also order the dumplings.

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Can I just say that those were the best fucking onion rings I have ever had in my life? They had QUINOA in the batter and were sooo crispy and totally perfect. We are both still talking about them!

The dumplings were fine.

Food aside, it was one of the most awkward dining experiences I have had in a while. First of all, the staff was CHAOTIC. So many different people were flitting about but there weren’t that many diners, and then everyone seemed like they kept distracted. It was like being in a restaurant run by Sims. Every time our server would come to check on us, they would ask us something and then start looking all around the restaurant, over their shoulder, anywhere but at us, while we were talking and it felt like every since interaction ended on a cliffhanger. I felt I had whiplash. The food came out super fast, but the service was sooo strange and disjointed. Couldn’t be more impersonal unless I, Erin Rachelle Kelly, was every server.

Secondly, some guy was dining alone right next to us and I had to face him since Henry took the seat I wanted. I think he might have been waiting for someone and then ended up ordering for himself once he realized he had been stood up, because he was already seated when he got there and didn’t order until much after we did, because he was looking at his phone the whole time. He ordered this big nacho plate which looked and smelled amazing, and then afterward, he got a huge hunk of chocolate cake which also looked like something I could easily demolish on my own, probably while crying.

I wanted to also get a slice of cake, but was starting to panic about getting in line for the concert so we opted on getting a chocolate chip cookie to go. Henry didn’t like it but I thought it was fine.

Those onion rings really saved the day, though. That and the candied ginger that came speared on a toothpick with Henry’s housemade ginger ale, which I immediately plucked from his glass and popped straight into my mouth while he watched with mouth agape. I was such a fucking bitch on this day, moreso than I typically am.

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(I know, I know, so many people who know me IRL think I AM SO NICE, SO SWEET but Henry knows the real Erin, the one who grew up being called Sybil by her family. SMILEY FACE.)

I would like to go back to Fresh for a full meal COMPLETE WITH CAKE but probably in a different location where it hopefully won’t feel like the entire kitchen staff is going to self-implode around me. My chai tea and onion rings helped right the wrongs of the day, rewire my sizzling brain, and get me in READY MODE for the Kang Daniel show. Who knew adding quinoa to onion rings could be such a game changer?!?!?

Jan 102023
 

When I was digging through photo boxes in search of good shots of my Pappap’s house to use for my Christmas present project, I found these that I must have taken in the 90s on one of my last trips to Europe with Sharon.

I’m mildly amazed at the amateur photojournalistic quality of them (minus that broad’s hand cameo in the left-hand corner, lol). Most of my old vacation pictures are such trash, especially the earlier trips when I was 9-11 and taking pictures of castles from a bus window. I can’t believe my grandparents actually paid to get that shit developed (and got doubles?

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!). These must be from Italy, but I can’t remember from where or when.

LOOK AT THAT BROAD!!! I need to frame this. It’s too good to not be in a frame. That lady must have been such an icon.

There was this one night in particular where I can remember having a huge fight with Sharon and screaming, “I’M GOING OUT WITH SOME OF THE PEOPLE FROM THE GROUP AND YOU CAN JUST STAY HERE IN THE ROOM AND ROT!” because she was such a stick in the mud when it came to socializing with other people on the tour with us, but I think that was a night from the last trip she and I took together (the ONE WITH STEFAN LOL) and I’m also pretty sure we were in Lucerne when I went off with some of the other people and I felt like an actual grown-up. (I think I was probably 17.)

Sometimes it’s surreal to me when I come across these old pictures or have a quick flashback of some vignette from a foreign city. It was so long ago but also feels like no time has passed.

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I’m eternally grateful that I was given these opportunities to explore such beautiful, historical places as a kid, but I would definitely prefer to experience it again now as an adult, with Henry and Chooch. Sharon was…oof.

(Oh, I’m sure there will still be fighting, though lol.

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)

Dec 152022
 

You guys, the most amazing thing happened after we scarfed down 1.5 cinnamon breads between the three of us: ALL OF THE RIDES OPENED. In this post, we will look at pictures of rides, and us on rides, and I’ll say some things about rides. Sound good? YEAH THAT’S WHAT I THOUGHT.

Blazing Fury! I love riding this and screaming outlandishly on the drops. Chooch thought the one ride operator looked like Jonah Hill except he couldn’t remember his name so I went through a list of basically every actor affiliated with Seth Rogen until his name was on the tip of my tongue and suddenly, in a moment of the ride when it was pretty quiet and no one on the train was talking, I bellowed, “JONAH HILL!!!!” so now I think that should be my new dark ride battle cry, kind of like when we went through a phase of screaming, “JANNA!” as a way to express mock-fear on kiddie coasters.

Hey man, I had been wanting to ride this dumb kids ride ever since I saw videos of Dollywood’s new family area, Wildwood Grove.

It was kind of dumb but also hilarious.

I wanted Chooch and I to share a bear but as you can see, that did play out the way I had hoped.

Wow, Chooch put his phone down long enough for Henry to take a picture, I’m shocked.

Back row, Lightning Rod! This was a station wait ALL DAY LONG. Literally could have just walked on at times if we hadn’t been so particular about front or back row.

SIR. I forgot how insane this coaster is. My very first RMC, back in 2018, and still one of my favorites. However, it either got a lot rougher or I just don’t remember it being so rough, but my organs felt majorly jostled on every ride. The quad-down or whatever thoosie name it has is still easily one of my favorite elements on any RMC I’ve ridden this far. It makes me so fucking giddy!

Chooch sang Papa Roach on this again, for old time’s sake. This time though he looked up the lyrics so he could sing more than just the opening part and then made the mistake of trying to make sense of them. Words in a song written and performed by a band called Papa Roach.

Good luck!

We just kept getting right back in line at one during the day. When you can basically WALK ON an RMC, you gotta take advantage of that shit. I definitely had some minor bruising on my person from the re-rides. Not complaining!

I made Chooch ride these acorns with me. I had to do it for the squirrels, you know?!

I also had to take a picture of this because SQUIRREL. Also, in the background, you can see the lift hill for Wild Eagle. We only rode this once – I don’t know why this one isn’t very re-rideable for me. It’s not BAD by any means, I guess I just don’t care much for wing coasters?

This one just isn’t that memorable to me, although the ride operator certainly was. He was some old dude who definitely was taking FULL advantage of being given a microphone and he turned that station into open mic night.

Except he was the only performer.

Chooch got on the train after us and was able to hear one more joke than we did. He was 100% not a fan of this guy at all, and in his typical surly manner, later relayed to me the “dumbest joke of all time” that the guy told as Chooch’s train was leaving the station.

“What was the name of the reindeer in Jingle Bells? Bob. The bells on Bob’s tail ring — no, don’t laugh. It’s not funny,” Chooch sighed when he noticed that I was cracking up at his retelling of the Not Funny Joke.

Here we are standing in line for the new family coaster in the Wildwood Grove section. This wasn’t when Chooch was retelling the joke, but that was similar to the face he made when I laughed at it. This was a new credit for him since it was built after our last visit!

Um OK, can we hold the phone for a sec? Because I think Thunderhead might be in my Top 5 favorite wooden coasters of all time? I think it might even be my favorite coaster in Dollywood? I knew that this was one that seriously gave me giggle fits last time we were there but I was SO AFRAID that it wasn’t going to live up to my expectations. Maybe I outgrew it! I have been on so many excellent coasters since 2018, after all.

But SHIT SON, somehow this felt even crazier, wilder, and more fucking fantastic than the last time. I was not prepared. Not at all. This was another straight-up walk on so after we rode it once, we ran all the way around and got right back on without Henry, who was reading dumb Reddit shit on his phone while sitting on a bench, even noticing.

I made Henry ride this later in the front row and you guys, I was laughing so hard that I couldn’t breathe and came SO CLOSE to peeing my pants. This is what a roller coaster should feel like! Insanity! Giddy! Wild!

Henry sent me this from his terrible phone, but it was a gif so I had to just put a screen shot in here because WordPress is so finicky. Anyway, this is us on the new kiddie coaster that went around like 3 or 4 times – 3 or 4 times TOO much.

Not shown: Tennessee Tornado, which was way less shitty than I remembered it to be so I allowed Chooch to drag me on it twice; Mystery Mine, which I was OBSESSED with the first time we went to Dollywood in 2011! It’s still fun, just kind of underwhelming now. Firechaser Express – I love this family coaster! It’s so much fun and it has a backward launch which always makes me crack up!

Oh wait, I lied! I forgot that I took this video while we were in line:

I think this wraps up the ride portion of the blog posts! I will return at some point with the remainder of my pictures and thoughts, like you care!

Dec 102022
 

Dollywood doesn’t open until 11am so we were able to have somewhat of a leisurely Sunday, which is almost unheard of for us when we’re traveling. There is not much room for “relaxation” with our vacationing style, lol. I tried to read on our little balcony for a little bit, and then we got a C- grade hotel breakfast downstairs. I mean, it was fine for people who don’t care about what they’re eating, I guess. But I am limited. I settled on scrambled eggs and it got the job done. Meanwhile, Henry tried to mansplain to some young girl how to use the pancake machine and she snapped back at him, which he proceeded to dwell on even a day later, like OK bro, god forbid you called out for being a know-it-all man.

Probably replaying the pancake scene in his head on the hotel balcony before we left for Dollywood.

On the tram at Dollywood! We arrived a bit after 10am because usually places will open the lots earlier than the park, so we try to beat the crowds. Sadly, the driver of the tram got on his little speaker thing and said that he was required to tell us that DUE TO HIGH WINDS, SOME OF THE RIDES WOULD NOT BE RUNNING TODAY.

He quickly curbed any and all questions but continuing, “Now look, I don’t have a list of the rides, but I’m obligated to tell you,” and then he went on to list all the non-ride shit that Dollywood has to offer, like meats and shows. Two things that I do not care for. We were pretty bummed about this but I tried to look on the bright side in that we’ve already ridden everything there (except for the new family coaster) and there are way worse places to be stuck at for a day than Dollywood, lemme tell you.

There was a small crowd already gathering at the gates and we were prepared to stand there until 11, but then they played the National Anthem at 10:30 and started letting people in! Let’s goooo!

DOLLYWOOD, I MISSED YOU!

We decided to take a chance and walked straight to Lightning Rod just to see, and there was already a small line that had formed. This gave us hope because there wasn’t a CLOSED FOR WEATHER sign at the entrance or any other type of crowd deterrent, so maybe the tram driver was given FAKE NEWS.

It did seem pretty windy though, which sucked because the rest of the weather was a bangin’ fall day, man. Sunshine, high-60s, bright blue skies. I was actually starting to sweat a little in my sweater and Chooch was mumbling about how this was why he wanted to wear shorts, wah.

I’m sure it’s park policy that they have to wait until the joint officially opens before the ride attendants can come out and give us the bad news, but it was still annoying that they let all of us coaster assholes loiter for 30 minutes before coming out of their hidey holes inside the station to tell us that the ride was not opening due to winds. Actually, they only seemingly whispered this update to the people in the very front, and not everyone was leaving so we weren’t sure what the fuck was going on until some girl behind us walked up and asked. Then we heard her tell her friends that they said NOTHING was running, and they left the line along with a bunch of other people, so we followed like the sheep that we are.

I was wondering if the carousel at least was running, and Chooch was like, “NO, NONE OF THE RIDES ARE, ESPECIALLY NOT THE CAROUSEL” because he has grown to hate carousels thanks to my obsession with carouselfies.

BUT IT WAS RUNNING!!!

I didn’t realize that they were both sitting in the same position, but they said afterward it was because they were both trying to get the seat belt on which wasn’t even required for adults. (I so badly wanted to end that sentence with “lol” but I my new thing is attempting to write more like an adult and not an AIM child. Bear with me, it’s a struggle.)

I love this sweater so much. I almost said I got it from Delia’s because my mind is clearly living its best life in the 90s but I actually got it last year from Mod Cloth. I usually have bad Mod Cloth experiences, but this one was a winner. You know, just a non-sponsored FYI.

I don’t know which one I like better: 1 or 3? Only one can go on the carouselfie wall!

Since all of the coasters were presumably closed, we took this opportunity to get some critically-acclaimed cinnamon bread.

I had been dreaming of this moment. We didn’t know that this was a DO NOT MISS foodstuffs the first time we visited in 2011, because I had failed to do my due diligence, but we rectified our errors the last time we were there and can confirm that this is a park food that 100% lives up to its hype. Holy shit, this damn bread. They give you a whole tin pan thingie of it and it’s like a warm, sticky pillow of decadence.

We got TWO to split between the three of us because last time, we only got one for the three of us and craved more immediately after demolishing the pan in under 5 minutes.

We ate one and half loaves right then and there, and then devoured the rest later that evening because we are pigs for Dolly’s cinnamon bread.

LOL. Also, I begged him to bring other flannels but he of course just brought the one which is so annoying. “My shirts underneath are different every time!” he cried defensively, like that matters.

(OK, it does, but Jesus, Henry.)

Then we casually strolled about, taking in the scenery. Dollywood is so cozy and woodsy!

Then something totally amazing happened: EVERY RIDE WAS CLEARED TO OPEN!! The day totally did a complete 180! So, my plan of, “Well, we’ll just have a leisurely, slow day at the park since the rides are closed. We can take it easy and go see some shows or something” turned into, “LET’S GO, BITCHES! GO GO GO!!” as we ran from one coaster to the next. More pictures in the next post!

Dec 062022
 

Here is where I eat crow –

(except not this crow)

(wait, I’m a vegetarian, so not ANY crow)

(WHY DOES IT HAVE TO BE EATING CROW??)

– the hotel that I threw a fit over actually ended up being….pretty OK. Like, the room was big and modern shockingly, and the shower was very clean and nice, and it had a cute balcony that overlooked the Pigeon Stream or something, I forget what it’s called. It was literally babbling like they say in the fairy tales or whatever. Very quaint.

Lookit!

Here’s what it looked like from the street when we were en route to get our Gatlin’ on.

  1. It was like 40 degrees but would Chooch wear pants and at the very least a hoodie? Obviously not.
  2. I fucking swear to god Henry as an array of flannels but this is the only one he hadn’t vacuum-packed last spring and keeps re-wearing it because he can’t be bothered to deflate his winter clothes. Sigh.

Pretending he doesn’t belong to us.

GUYS. Guys guys guys guys. There was only really ONE THING I wanted to do while we were in Gatlinburg and that was revisit the Mysterious Mansion. Chooch and I went through the last time we were there in 2018 and it was SO GOOD that I think about it every Halloween season because I wish so badly we had something like this in Pittsburgh.

Aerial views while waiting in the foyer.

The ticket lady made us wait for “five minutes” to see if anyone dared to join us. A group of ladies and their annoying preteen girls approached at one point and one of the moms came in to ask questions. She went back outside and relied whatever info she had gleaned and it turned into a dramatic tug of war because wahhh, the girls were too scared, etc etc. They lingered outside the house for a good while and the ticket lady called out from her window-nook, “Let’s just wait a minute and see what these people are going to do.”

Finally, they retreated and I was tres relieved (lol, I used to say everything was tres this and tres that in middle school for no good reason other than I probably learned it from Sassy). As the lady was finally reading us the rules and letting go through the turnstile into the formal waiting room, two guys showed up and also bought tickets. I was pissed at first until they joined us and I realized that they were adults, maybe young 30s, and as Chooch said, kind of like my brother Corey. They ended up being great companions for our tour through this fucked up house, which requires lots of hands-on action, searching for hidden doors, etc.

I won’t give anything away because there is one thing that this place does that is different from any other haunt I’ve been to and it’s FUCKING JARRING, but for a haunt to have only 2 or 3 scare actors yet still make grown men jump is a true fucking feat. I just want to give a shout out to the Ringu-esque girl and the clown for being the real MVPs, and when I say that clowns usually don’t scare me…

DAMN this one got me GOOD. Like, 87 times. And then I think I imprinted on him.

“Do you think he thought I was pretty??” I breathlessly asked Henry after we left the house, with the clown leering at us from the exit.

“Sure, Erin,” Henry sighed.

:(

Things I didn’t take pictures of:

  • Walking to the main drag of Gatlinburg where Henry gave Chooch $40 to buzz off into an arcade while we did a cider tasting at the Tennessee Cider Company (I think this was the name?). Dude. I cannot hold any sort of alcohol anymore, which is perfectly fine with me because I truly don’t care that much about drinking, but after the second sampling, everything just tasted like lighter fluid to me, even though I am first and foremost a cider gal. Not to be a HIPSTER about it, but I was totally drinking cider (Strongbow for life) before it became trendy and…everywhere. Anyway, we had a hysterical cider-slinger assisting us and two other couples. We snagged 6 bottles (3 for gifts, three for us) and everyone who bought at least 2 got a free bottle of peanut butter cider and um, I can see why they were giving it away. Everything we sampled was delicious, but this tasted like smelling a scratch-n-sniff sticker while drinking…blank alcohol. Do not recommend. I honestly preferred the OG plain-ass apple flavor.
  • Then, Chooch popped into and was like, “Oh cool, you’re still here getting drunk anyway here are the pointless things I won at the arcade also I lost $20.” This got Henry’s attention. “You’re kidding,” he said. “Nope. I have no idea how it fell out of my pocket. It’s because I left my wallet at the hotel.” Then Henry called him an asshole really loud (not that loud, actually, but he did use his “I’m kind of in a loud bar environment and want to make damn sure my son knows he’s being called an asshole” voice-volume. Then Chooch asked for the key to the hotel now that he had “no money and nothing else to do” and the skulked away. “Wow,” I said. “He’s way more honest than I was at that age. I never would have admitted to losing cash! I would have been like, ‘Hi here I am, back with these two prizes that cost $40 at the arcade!'” I mean, even if he hadn’t lost the $20, he still would have lost the $20 in the games.
  • Then we walked the rest of the side of the road we were on. It was SO FUCKING CROWDED. You couldn’t get near the bar in the moonshine tasting places, and the line to ride the cable car had half a block’s worth of sidewalk congested to the point where we had to keep stepping into the street. This was not how I remembered it last time we were there, which was also the weekend after Thanksgiving!

New location: other side of the street.

Christmas dogs!

The best parts of Gatlinburg IMO are the little squares tucked away from the main drag. They’re these adorable little courtyards with fountains and specialty shops away from all the MAGA SWAG and MOONSHINE and RIPLEYS BELIEVE IT OR WHO GIVES A FUCK. (Honestly, how much stake does Ripleys have in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge??) One of the courtyards had a place called FRIAR’S DONUTS and it called to me. Not so much because I was craving a donut (although I could use a sweet carb to sponge up the cider in my gut) but because FRIAR and I saw from the doorway that they had MERCH.

“Oh, I KNEW IT. We have to go inside because I want a magnet!” I cried. “But you have to buy a donut too because then it just looks weird if we only buy a magnet.” This was one of the few times Henry didn’t question my logic because MMMMM, ME EAT DONUT NOW!!!!!! MMMM!

This guy looked so much like Henry’s son’s Blake’s BFF Artie, who also is one of Henry’s drivers at the Faygo Factory! He calls Henry to chat way more than any of Henry’s actual sons, which is hilar to me

A FRIAR AND HIS DONUTS.

We split a glazed and it was CLASSIC tasting. Like, it tasted like a donut my Pappap probably ate at Mr. Donut in the 70s with his drywall employees. Do you know what I mean? Like a genuine donut that knows its role and isn’t trying to be something it’s not. I would go back for more donuts next time we’re in town, for sure, and actually – was this open Sunday morning because I would have preferred another glazed over the meh hotel breakfast we had…

Although I was purposely having a meh breakfast because I was saving myself for the DOLLYWOOD CINNAMON BREAD LATER THAT DAY. More on that later, but I might need to take a break here for a second and stare at the ceiling with my tongue drooping out the side of my mouth as I recall the flavor fiesta in my mouth….

Taffy puller lost in thought.

We also bought some delicious cookies from a very friendly pregnant lady at some cookie place and an assortment of moonshine chocolate from a super bored young guy who was 100% wasn’t trying to make a sale in an empty store in the corner of the FRIAR’S DONUTS courtyard. I thought we were just going in to sample them but Henry was like OH TWIST MY ARM, WHY DON’T YOU and bought a box of 10 and I mean, they were fine but not $20-some worth of fine.

We walked back to the hotel on a much quieter back street, collected Chooch, and set off to do a mountain coaster but all of them were like SO CROWDED that you could barely even pull into the parking lots, so instead we went to a gas station to get beverages (Henry got some smirnoff mixed drink thing in a can and I was like WHO ARE YOU) and then we went back to the hotel, watched Friends as is our hotel routine no matter what (or Golden Girls!) and then got some rest in preparation for a full day of DOLLYWOOD!

(But yeah, if you ever go to Gatlinburg, do the haunted house!!!! DO NOT DO THE RIPLEYS ONE!!! If you see a haunted attraction on the main strip of Gatlinburg, THAT IS NOT IT. The one you want is on a back street, you have to cross over the creek via a pedestrian bridge, and the haunted house butts up against a hillside. Dude, you gotta go.)

Dec 052022
 

If I was a POSER, I would skip the part of Saturday where we came down from the mountain and went to our hotel in Gatlinburg and the sight of it from the parking lot alone made me throw a fit because IT LOOKED SKETCHY so I cried about how the whole weekend was awful and I just wanted to go home and Henry was like NO and I was like YES and Chooch was like *here we go* and then Henry called my bluff and said FINE and started to “drive home” and we made it as far as Pigeon Forge, past the signs for Dollywood, when I screamed, “PULL OVER, I AM GOING TO FIND MY OWN HOTEL” and Henry was like “OK YOU DO THAT” and Chooch was like *this is gonna be good* and I “found a hotel” in Pigeon Forge and Henry was like, “OK LET’S GO CHECK MOM INTO HER HOTEL” and I was like “OK but before I confirm my reservation, can we please eat lunch.”

And that’s how we ended up at Mellow Mushroom, which is tradition (4x makes it so), and then we all had a big laugh over The Fight while shoveling delicious pizza into our mouths.

And then Chooch told me my smile is just as fake as my voice.

I ALWAYS GET THIS ONE, it’s their mushroom pie and it is delectable. The waiter (super friendly chap in a cowboy hat who Henry originally thought was faking his southern twang but I don’t think so) agreed that it’s the best one.

Pretty uneventful (BUT FILLING AND DELICIOSO) lunch, which was actually welcome considering the stressful morning and high-octane temper tantrum of mine. It was nice to just sit in a booth and speak gently to each other. (Gently? Eh, we were still probably being assholes to each other but probably with more good humor and less vitriol.)

Look, so happy and fed! Hanger squashed. Real smiles! People walking by were laughing because we were laughing and this actually happened another time too, according to Henry. “That lady was laughing because she saw you laughing,” he said, slightly concerned.

After lunch, we went to the Old Mill …. something. Somehow, after two trips to this area, we had never known about this! I just happened to see it from the window when I was still sulking on the way to lunch, after the HOTEL HULLABALOO.

Look how beautiful! Once we crossed the bridge, I immediately recognized a bunch of spots from the In The Loop travel vlogs from Pigeon Forge. Legend and Molly are huge Pigeonheads (that sounded good at the time) so it all started to come back to me.

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We checked out a soap shop and instead of getting local soap, Chooch got a mass-produced brand name (Duke Cannon) bar of Pumpkin Spice Latte soap. I mean, you do you, Chooch, I guess.

Metal-working. Other people were taking pictures so I felt like I should too, but then I realized they were taking pictures of their family members who were metal-working with the professionals.

Next, I bought some local jams for Xmas gifts at one of the Old Mill shops. Surprisingly, this area wasn’t too outrageous people-wise for a Saturday afternoon, so we had a pretty pleasant time

We stopped in this alleged cat house but there were only THREE CATS TO BE FOUND. And then just a bunch of cat art and people clothes with cats on them. It was disappointing except for the actual cats we got to see.

Some cafe was next door. I had a pretty good apple cider chai.

By now, I was fed *and* caffeinated so I was feeling even better about life.

This picture actually became very useful a few nights later when we were back home in Pittsburgh and I lurched forward on this couch. “WAIT, WHERE ARE MY JAMS?” I exclaimed.

“……………..um,” Henry stammered.

I ran out to the car to check, we checked our luggage, but NO JAM. NO FUCKING JAM!! I started to think it was my fault. I vaguely remembered setting the bag down when Chooch and I were sitting in those adirondack chairs in the cafe.

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But then I was going through my pictures and cried out, “A HA!!!! YOU WERE CARRYING THE BAG AFTER THE CAFE!” So we had to have lost it somewhere between that bridge and our car. There were THREE more shops we went to before leaving: a nut place, a candy place, and a gaming place.

But as soon as I showed Henry this picture, he said, “I set it down in that planter behind Chooch when I took your picture.

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Fuck.”

I was already mad at him because he took the stupid picture from the wrong angle (the mill was to the left!!!) so this dumb picture ended up costing me $20 in lost goods.

I know, it’s not A LOT of money, but it’s not….NOT a lot. And it sucks, especially because I bought the jam with the intention of tucking them in gift bags for some friends.

AT LEAST HENRY MADE SURE HIS CANDY SAFELY MADE IT BACK TO PITTSBURGH.

And Chooch’s stupid soap! I should have made him carry my jam too!

Anyway, I can’t remember the name of this game store but the guys working there were FANTASTIC. They treated Chooch like a prince and when he asked for suggestions, one of the was like “WALK WITH ME, M’LAD.” I mean, not in so many words. But yeah, I would recommend this place if you’re in the area and looking for a game to play on a rainy night in your hotel, or whatever!

Oh, and the nut place we went to was full of MAGA shit so I did NOT buy a magnet even though their logo was a bad ass squirrel.

Back to the jam! Henry emailed the jam place on a whim to see if anyone turned in the bag.

“No one would have done that!” I scoffed, because my faith in humanity is at an all-time low. I mean, that’s 100% something I would have done – and been super panicked about it too. “WE HAVE TO GET THIS JAM BACK IN THE RIGHT HANDS!” as I’m darting all around Pigeon Forge like Dolly Parton looking for her car in the lot after working 9to5. (Look, that and Steel Magnolias is pretty much as far as my Dolly knowledge goes, but I am sure thankful that she has a theme park!)

“You never know, being the south and all,” Henry reasoned. “It’s worth a shot.”

WOULD YOU BELIEVE that the jam store emailed him and said that they weren’t aware of any misplaced jams being returned, but they would check with the managers of the other stores in the square AND ONE OF THE STORES CAME BACK AND SAID THAT YES, SOMEONE HAD BROUGHT IT TO THEM!

Ugh I’m so pissed that I didn’t realize it was missing while we were still there. BUT they were kind enough to issue me a refund (they also offered the option of shipping it to me but I didn’t feel like dealing with that). Whoever returned this is a true hero.

I mean OK it wasn’t like it was my WEDDING BAND (you can’t lose something you don’t have, lol) or my prosthetic thumb, but it was still a small weight off my shoulders.  I don’t have enough money for “It’s only money” to apply to me.

I did not thank Henry for getting me a refund because this was all his fault in the first place, so…

Anyway, after we left the gaming place, it was time to go back to Gatlinburg and check in.

“Don’t we have to drop Mum off at her hotel first?” Chooch deadpanned from the backseat.

Sigh.

Dec 022022
 

The first time we went to Tennessee was back in 2011, with our good friends Bill and Jessi, who invited us to tag along on their vacation and subsequently causing us to fall in love with the area! The three of us woke up early one morning in an attempt to do some mountain shit. Actually, now that I’m thinking about it, I think the sole reason was because my beloved Roadside America app had suggested a place called Clingman’s Dome and it sounded super spacey and weird, so I wanted to do it. I mean, it was only an overlook thing that required a mild hike to reach, but it was still something to do.

I just had no idea that Chooch was going to have such an adverse reaction to this area! He was throwing such a huge fit (“My legs hurt!” “I’m tired!” “CARRY ME, WAH!”) that we were sincerely afraid he was going to alert any neighboring bears to our presence (though I imagine they’d probably have fled the opposite direction, take me with you, bears).

I was cruising through my old Flickr album for the 2011 trip last week, to stoke the nostalgia for our upcoming return, and when I saw the below picture, I thought, “Golly, gosh darn, wouldn’t it be a real barrel of laughs to recreate this shot with Chooch who is now 16 and taller than both of us?”

I posted it on Instagram as sort of an interest check but also to put it out there so that Chooch and Henry would have less room to decline my latest demand. I love doing that to them. “BUT I ALREADY TOLD THE INTERNET!”

We went to breakfast first on Monday with the intention of then driving straight up into the Smokies. EXCEPT GUESS WHAT YOU GUYS. The fucking ONLY ROAD that takes you into the mountains was CLOSED. I went into a tailspin over this. Henry immediately pulled into the Smoky Mountain Visitors Center while I basically cried and Chooch sardonically murmured, “Aw, that’s too bad. I was really looking forward to having  my picture taken. Shucks.” Henry was checking the GPS for alternatives but there was NOTHING. The GPS map even showed that the road was blocked off! The day before, there were high winds in the area so Henry guessed that probably a lot of branches and debris were covering the road and needed to be swept off.

I DIDN’T CARE! I JUST WANTED THE STUPID ROAD TO BE OPEN!

“Go inside the info building and ask them when it will open!” I wailed.

“They’re not going to know,” Henry mumbled, looking for something shiny to distract me.

THAT IS LITERALLY THE WHOLE PURPOSE OF AN INFORMATION CENTER, TO HAVE PEOPLE INSIDE THAT ARE PROVIDING INFORMATION!

I was just about to lose my mind when I glanced at the GPS map and noticed that the “ROAD CLOSED” thingie was no longer showing up on the map, so I whipped around to look out the rear window at the actual road and sure enough, the barricades had been removed!

I was screaming! Henry and Chooch were sighing!

The drive to Clingman’s Dome took about 30 minutes or so but it was so nice because hardly anyone was on the road. I think only about 3 cars had made it in front of us when the road opened so it was as nature intended.

What a huge difference from Saturday, that’s for sure. I believe only 2 cars were already in the parking lot of Clingman’s Dome trail as opposed to the 50+ plus the line of traffic going down the mountain that we ran into on Saturday. Has an empty parking lot ever been so beautiful.

Unforch, another big difference was that the weather on Saturday was BEAUTIFUL, sunny and totally hoodie weather. But on this day, it was drizzling/snow-misting, windy AF, and around 30 degrees (but felt like 20 degrees).  Chooch of course was only wearing a hoodie over his t-shirt, AND SHORTS, and Henry and I just had on light jackets. This was 100% hat and gloves conditions, people.

But I wasn’t leaving without the damn picture, so we set off onto the trail at the same as an Indian family. We had only been walking for about 3-5 minutes when we all collectively realized that, “HOLY SHIT, THIS IS THE SPOT.” I mean, it was pretty much exactly the same, even the log was still there. And then I started cracking up because you’d have thought we’d had been legit hiking the side of a rugged mountain for hours the way Chooch was reacting in 2011. But nope – just three minutes!

I pulled out the camera to take the shot, BUT HENRY BROUGHT THE WRONG LENS. So, this time it was me throwing a tantrum and Henry angrily stormed off to retrieve the correct lens. Meanwhile, three of the older members of the Indian family had cried UNCLE and were making their way back. One of them stopped and kindly asked if we needed help and I said, “Oh, no thank you. We’re just waiting for—-” and I blanked, not knowing how to refer to Henry!? “—our friend.”

He nodded and kept walking, but honestly, I’m sure Chooch and I looked like suspish hooligans, loitering on the side of the trail like we had just found a geocache of drugs and gold bars and Elvis’s molar.

Henry came back, jammed the lens into my person, furiously shrugged off his jacket, lifted Chooch up over his shoulder, and hoarsely hissed, “TAKE THE FUCKING PICTURE.”

I mean, it does look like the same spot, right?? I was actually shook that we found it.

 

Look at Henry so far ahead of us, lol. He was DONEZO after this. It’s been 5 days and he’s still bitching about his back pain. Oops. But, at least we made the memory!? RIGHT HENRY?

Oh shit, the hilarity of the comparison of these two pictures carried me through most of the drive home. I just kept going back and looking at it and cracking the hell up. I want to say that I can’t believe they went through with this, but c’mon.

I knew that they would.

You knew that they would.

They knew that they would.

Nov 302022
 

I was so angry on Saturday. Henry actually got home from work early on Friday and we had discussed leaving earlier and driving all the way through to Gatlinburg, but then he decided to take a nap until fucking 3pm, so he stuck with the OG plan of driving to somewhere in Virginia and then continuing on the next morning. So, by the time we actually got to Gatlinburg, it was 11am on Saturday. I had wanted to get up into the mountains early!

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The plan was to go to Clingman’s Dome and recreate a picture of Henry and Chooch from when we were there in 2011. I was looking forward to it because it was a beautiful day for doing mountain walks, you know? Except, it was so incredibly crowded by the time we got there that we couldn’t even find a parking spot. Can you believe it?! It was like trying to park at fucking Disney, I don’t even know. And the worst part was that some BITCH in her pocketed leggings (Henry HATES when women wear these pants lol) got out of a minivan in front of us and ran through the lot which was horseshoe-shaped, when she saw that a spot had opened up on the other side. Literally ran across the grass that was separating the sides of the lot and stood in the empty spot so that none of the FIFTY (probably!!) cars in front of theirs could claim it.

When we passed her on the way out of the lot (after clearly NOT getting a spot), Henry called her a cunt and I yelled across him, “Must feel cool to be such an asshole!”

“Wow,” Chooch murmured from the backseat. Look at us, setting the Good Examples!

That felt good to get that off our chests, but it was still extremely disappointing that it was SO CROWDED up there. This was my first time really experiencing heavy crowds in nature and it was wild.  We were there at the same of the year, also on a Saturday afternoon in 2018 and it wasn’t even close to being this insane. We didn’t go to Clingman’s Dome that time around but the overlooks and parking lots for other trails were not even almost at capacity and when I tell you that there were people creating their own parking spots on Saturday, I’m not being hyperbolic.

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Henry thinks it’s because people are still super-motivated to get out and do shit after quarantine, but now that everything is $$$$$$$$$$$ more people are trying to have free fun.

I was really bummed about this (and projected my dissatisfaction onto Henry, as one does) but honestly, even if we had found a parking spot, there was absolutely NO WAY that we would have been able to recreate the picture we wanted without hordes of people being in the background. So, it was for the best, and we planned to get up extra early on Monday and revisit the spot before leaving for home.

But dude, listen. The best part about this failed drive up the mountain was stopping at one of the smaller overlooks on the way back down and befriending the cutest, sweetest crow!!

He was totally chill, you can tell he was very used to people (probably not a great thing) and was like, “Sure, you can sit as close to me as you want. Can I also get into your car and go into town with you? I have some errands to run.”

“OMG I HAVE NEVER SEEN A CROW BEFORE, WOWWEEEE!”

Chooch and I were competing over who could take the best picture of the crow, but Chooch sadly won. Only because he has the new iPhone and I don’t!! I don’t even know what mine is. It was the newest one available in the beginning of 2020, the Covid edition, I guess.

ILYSM!!!!!!

I wanted him to come home with me and chase the fucking hawk away, ugh.

Such a beautiful bird! A huge highlight of the day for me, for sure.

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Nov 292022
 

We needed somewhere to eat dinner when we were en route to Tennessee on Friday and of course Henry put the burden on me. I hate that!! I can’t understand maps first of all, so I always end up finding a cool place, getting my heart set on it, only for Henry to say, “THAT IS NOT ON THE EXIT” like I know what that means.

I really hate him sometimes.

There was this cafe that was also a used book shop that had lots of vegan options and sounded like something I would love and I put all my eggs in that basket. Then of course, Henry was like THAT IS IN CHARLESTON, WV AND WE ARE NOT GOING THAT WAY but hello, he’s the one who was like, “Look for Rt. BunchaNumbers on the map and go from there.”  THAT IS WHAT I DID??

Anyway, I found a place in Davidson (? I think ?) WV called The Dish and it seemed appealing because they had housemade veggie burgers as well as brownies made with avocado. This seemed much better than going to a diner and getting stuck with either grilled cheese or a Gardenburger – not knocking either of these, and you know I love that greasy spoon ambiance, but I also wanted something healthy-ish.

Chooch was playing some dumb game on his phone called Bitlife all weekend and it was really embarrassing when he would say things like, “Now my mission is to become a pornographer” and the waitress would be lingering on the periphery. Or, “Great, 7 of my kids have measles and one just died.”

Henry and I are actually broken up but here is one of the last pictures we took together.


I had major regertz after seeing Chooch’s PB&J on a waffle that he ordered from the kid’s menu because he “just wasn’t that hungry” all of a sudden, but then was “starving” by the time we got to the hotel in Virginia an hour later. (I think we stayed in Virginia?? Yes, we did. I just had a flashback of passing the billboard for Dolly’s Diner and then going through the tunnel, and I think then Virginia happens.)

Oh you guys, my veggie burger was delectable. It came on a pita which was a nice departure from a typical bun! (Although the bun on ex-boyfriend Henry’s burger looked bangin’ so I kind of had double-regertz over that one.) There was avocado on this and a nice sauce that I enjoyed immensely. The only downside was that I ordered the veggie of the day – Brussels sprouts, which I love –  after confirming with the server that they weren’t going to be cooked in MEAT since nearly all eating establishments like to sully the sprouts in that way, making us veg-types the most sad. However, they gave me a baby portion! Literally like half of a palmful. I will say that they were cooked nicely and not all butter-logged and soggy. But still. I wanted more!

And then we split a warm brownie made with avocadoes, which Chooch frowned upon because he couldn’t wrap his head around this healthy ingredient substitute, but I thought it was just right.

Anyway, the whole reason I’m even writing this is because one day in the future, someone is going to ask, “What was that restaurant we ate at that one time…” and all I will have to do is check my dumb blog (if it even still exists) and scream out, “THE DISH! I WIN!” And also because I wouldn’t mind returning to this place the next time we’re driving out that way because it was delicious and didn’t make me feel shit afterward!

If you have any restaurant/diner recs that are on the route from Pittsburgh to Gatlinburg, let me know. I hate relying on Yelp, even though this time it worked in my favor!

Nov 282022
 

Leaving Tennessee today! It’s 6:46am and we’re packing up the room which involves us throwing stuff at Henry and saying, “Here put this in here.”

We woke up extra early to get to Crockett’s Breakfast Camp right when they open at 7 because for some reason I have latched on to this place after watching YouTube videos about it but it gets super crowded. We got here at 6:56 and there was already a small group of people waiting.

Chooch and Henry are not impressed yet.

7:45am: Back at the hotel so Henry can “go to the bathroom” before we check out.

What you missed:

  • Henry being sulky that I made him order Aretha Frankenstein’s Griddle Cakes which are just thick boi pancakes made in a griddle because I wanted to try them but didn’t want my own order since it was too much for muh belly and also didn’t come with a side of PONE like the egg breakfasts do. I was obsessed with this mythical PONE and it turned out to just be a thimble-sized dollop of a mushy corn bread (almost like ChiChi’s, #rip) with cranberries. It was good but I wish I would have known that’s all it was.
  • The pancakes were GÜT!!!!
  • Our waitress had an accent and Henry was like IT SOUNDS CAJUN and chooch and I were like, “who were you talking to??” Because it was totally some sort of Eastern Euro I’m betting. Then we saw her name on the bill – JULIYA. So Cajun.
  • Had to check out the bathroom as per the uje. The broad in there with me left without washing her hands, ugh.

Last view from our balcony. We stayed at some lame SureStay / Best Western but it ended up being ok even though I threw a huge fit about it on Saturday just based on the parking lot, backside of the building lol oh, me.

9:34am Hoo boy we just had a great excursion to Clingmans Dome in the Smokies. I wanted to recreate a picture from 2011 and we tried to do this on Saturday but the mountains were SO CROWDED that we couldnt get even get a parking spot. So we came back this morning and it was basically snowing, soooo cold, but somehow we only argued once and very briefly??

I’ll post the recreation in a separate blog post because I used the DSLR for it.

11:00am: We’re only just leaving Pigeon Forge now. It took so long to drive out of the mountains and Henry refused to stop anywhere even though I purposely wore a nice sweater to have my picture taken in. But ok. Mm.

Stopped at a gas station in Pigeon Forge that was next to a Bojangles and as we were leaving I saw a sign for sweet potato pies so I made Henry go into Bojangles and get one but he had to wait ten minutes for new ones to be made and I actually hate saying this but it was lowkey worth it. McD’s-esque and the filling was so smooth and warm.

12:36pm: Starting to not be as sulky. Found a place to eat at in some rando’ Virginian town, stay tuned. Hopefully they’re actually open. Just sitting here in the meantime marveling over Renjun’s precious baby voice.

1:16pm: Made it to White Birch!

I haven’t had a golden latte in forever.

Guys. I got the vegan curry and it was…meh, sadly. It had huge chunks of crunchy onions and carrots that were barely cooked, stewed tomatoes (ugh), over rice and quinoa. I had to keep trying to eat around stuff and it didn’t even taste curry-ish, but more like a stew.

Chooch didn’t eat any of his wrap which I tasted and immediately wished I had ordered because it was delicious but Chooch is v. picky. So I guess that’s what I’m having for dinner.

Henry got a chicken salad sandwich or something who cares.

3:45pm: Henry made me drive for a little while and that was annoying.

I’m actually still driving right now while I’m blogging JUST KIDDING I’m not an asshole.

5:44pm: this drive is so boring. I finished a book (Palm Beach Finland). It was ok. We have been listening to NCT this whole time. Chooch is laying in the back being a baby.

7:37pm: We just stopped at a rest area in Pennsylvania and I swear to fucking GOD this is not familiar even though we are on this route very often??

I feel like if it’s not new-new, it is at the very least a renovated rest stop but Henry is arguing that it’s not. I mean it was like sparkling, even the bathroom, and the vending area had an intense number of options and a SITTING AREA.

When we were leaving, I pointed out the numbers along the side of the door and asked if it was in case you wanted to measure your height and Henry said it’s there for when there is a robbery/crime so you know the approx. height of the perp?? I never knew this. I literally thought it was there in case someone felt like checking their height for curiosity purposes.

8:14pm: we should be home in about 24 minutes so I’ll put this live blog out of its misery. Byeeeeeeeeeeeee.

Nov 032022
 

Today is my Pappap’s birthday. He passed away in 1996 and while I miss the HELL out of him every single day, I did eventually reach a point where I was able to stop crying about it at a pin drop and actually enjoy the memories I have.

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I acquired a shit ton of photos from whenever we were cleaning out my grandparents house in 2016. I still haven’t hone through everything but I like to rummage through the boxes every now and then. I decided to do that tonight to get some photos of him to post on here and I ended up pulling out a stack from one of our vacations in 1990. I was so wrecked-looking for a long time as a kid and these pictures of me are awfully cringey but it’s time for me to stop caring about that because – well, who cares!

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I’m glad this is the stack I drew because I have been thinking a lot lately as we plan our family trip for next summer about how my Pappap (and Aunt Sharon, also featured prominently in the upcoming photos) instilled a strong love of travel into my life. I think he would be happy to know that Chooch is here now and is exactly the same way. I think my Pappap would have been wild about Chooch, honestly.

Anyway, please enjoy this random collection of my brace-faced, knotty-maned, chubby-cheeked adolescent self; my Pappap and Sharon’s disdain for posing for the camera; and a lot of European locations, some that I can’t exactly pinpoint all these years later – sorry!

Get ready for some signature Sharon scowls…

On this trip, we did London, parts of France, Italy, Switzerland, and Germany, I believe. Maybe Amsterdam, too. I would have to consult my old vacation journals and they are in a large trunk which is a pain to open. So we’ll just have to pretend that my memory is tight.

To this day, when I think of the Spanish Steps, I think of the fanciest McD’s I’ve ever visited. I wonder if it’s still there/as nice?

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!

I look like I’m crying but this was one of my favorite places when I was a kid, except that there were GIANT spiderwebs inside that bridge and that always scared me. I hope that I can go to Switzerland with Chooch (and Henry, I guess, lol) one day!

I guess Sharon must have taken this picture; I love it a lot.

That green was a choice.

I mean, I hate that I’m about to say this, but Shron really should have smiled more. She was so pretty. Also, seeing those coach buses in the background have me stoked for our summer 2023 trip that better fucking happen because we’ve already paid for some of it and I fucking swear to god there better not be another lockdown. It will be our first time as a family traveling with a group and I’m so excited because I love group tours!!

My pappap was probably ranting about how we had to pay for each pat of butter.

My grandma was a difficult person to travel with.

We’re probably walking off yet another ear-beating from my grandma here in Venice.

I wonder what he was talking about! That one lady is like, “NO FUCKING WAY, YA GOTTA BE SHITTIN’ ME!” in response to whatever tale had him gesticulating like so. You know how kids are always like SO BORED to be sitting with a bunch of adults at a dinner table? I was the opposite – I fucking loved sitting with my pappap because he always had interesting things to say, he always ended up being one of the most popular people on all of our trips, and I felt like A FUCKING GROWN-UP sitting there drinking my hot chocolate (which was usually disgusting Ovaltine in these hotel restaurants) with my plump pinky finger extended.

HNNNNGGGG.

Anyway, I’m glad I never burned these pictures in a hobo fire of shame and I think it’s time that some more of these old shots see the light of day. I was lucky to have had the opportunity to make these memories, even though they weren’t always as idyllic as you’d think. At the end of the day, it was time spent with my pappap and I will always treasure, today especially. Happy birthday, Pappap!!

If you’re reading this, would you like to see more vintage photo dumps like this? LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS. Lol.

Oct 142022
 

Not technically a live blog, but I’m still in the car traveling back to PGH and need something to do. So let’s look at the vegan fun that was had today!

As you may know I’m just a run-of-the-mill vegetarian but I always try to seek out vegan joints when we’re out on road trips for a number of reasons: the food is almost always delicious and a nice change from the soggy veggie burger I’d likely be eating at a roadside diner, it’s usually healthier (usually!), I like supporting vegan communities in other cities, it’s a lot easier to find a fully-vegan place than a meat-centric place with a generic Bocaburger on the menu used to placate the token veg that comes in with their carnivorous counterparts.

Good thing Henry isn’t one of those big shot manly men who refuse to put anything plant-based between their lips. He might look like he wakes up and immediately grabs a fistful of Slim Jims off the nightstand for a breakfast pre-game, but he genuinely is so used to faux meat options that he often will cook it for himself at home.

Originally we were going to go to NYC for a partial day trip but honestly, after I found out NCT was already going to be gone, I just didn’t care anymore (the trials and tribs of a forever 16yo) and also one of the places I wanted to eat doesn’t open until 5pm and we were definitely not planning on staying that long since we still had to eventually drive home today. Plus, when I woke up this morning, I was NCT-hungover and didn’t feel like fucking around with the logistics of getting there so I made the executive decision to just come home. Henry was like, “WOW ARE YOU SRS?” with a thank god quietly queefing past his lips.

However!! I had a plan B, and that was to go to Vegan Treats in Bethlehem PA because wait a minute it’s been a minute since we were last there. And then I wanted to swing by Harrisburg to have lunch at The Vegetable Hunter, a vegan spot I’ve been following for a bit on Instagram and also I’ve never actually been to Harrisburg for the dozens upon dozens of times we’ve driven past it to better locations (or…Newark).

The last time we went there, it was also in October and all the creepy Halloween treats were on display.

(Just an FYI as I’m writing this, we’re now home – blogging in the car wasn’t happening because I kept wanting to stop and rehash last night’s NCT concert lololol.)

OMG, we got the purple and black ice cream cone one up there, the Frankensteing, the green eyeball monster, the red&white red velvet one over there, all to take home to share with Chooch. Then Henry threw in a brownie, and pumpkin soft serve to eat for breakfast since it was like 10am and our hotel breakfast was…well, hotel breakfast.

I would like to state for the record that we almost didn’t get soft serve because when Henry asked for today’s flavors, he then turned and repeated them to me as if I wasn’t standing right there, as if the Vegan Treats employee was speaking in a special language that only people familiar with ovens could understand. I opened my mouth to say that I would like to try the pumpkin, but literally .00000003 seconds after Henry translated the utterly confusing big people language to me, he turned back around and said, “That’ll be it” and handed over the credit card.

Now, because I’m me, I quietly stewed about this until we got outside when I unleashed my vitriol. Henry somehow was very calm about this and said, “I’ll go back in and get it” and then told me to go for a walk, which was a good plan because I am currently in a workweek hustle competition on FitBit and some  broad named Marisol is REALLY testing my patience. So I walked around a random street of Bethlehem while Henry accidently entered the bakery through the wrong door and found himself in the kitchen with the bakers.

Then we stopped in Harrisburg for lunch at The Vegetable Hunter! I will say that while the food was great, the people at the counter were not very welcoming. No one else was in there but they didn’t even bother to greet us, show us the menu, ask if we’ve been there before, etc. We didn’t even know it was the type of place where you order at the counter  – I had to ask.

We were the only diners so that was nice. You never know what sort of clientele a vegan joint will bring! (Well, you do, actually, and that’s why you get happy when no one else is there, lol.)

I ordered pulled pork for Henry and immediately wished I had the whole sandwich for myself instead of just the half he shared with me.

I got a ranch chicken and bacon sandwich and it was DELICIOUS – the chicken was made with tofu and perfectly seasoned (what do I know about seasoning though) but it was pretty small. I would have been super hungry still if Henry hadn’t shared his pulled pork with me. My kale salad had peppercorn in it which I was not a fan of.

But overall, I thought the food was nice and would stop back again. They also have a location in Hershey so you never know!

Before we could enjoy our lunch, I made Henry walk near the river so I could catch up to MARISOL who apparently wasn’t stuck in a car all day and could just walk around whenever she fucking wanted. Henry was like, “When you get home, you will walk all night and win, calm down.”

I knew I shouldn’t have accepted this week’s challenge! I somehow managed to get my step goal yesterday before the concert started so that helped, but I had been consistently going over my goal all week and getting more 20,000+ each day since I was off and could take long, leisurely walks at my discretion.

We parked in front of this cutie building.

These are trash but I was wearing my NCT127 concert shirt today and I wanted it memorialized, haha.

I dunno what this building is, but I liked the roof

After we ate, I was like, “SAY, CAN WE TAKE A QUICK STROLL OVER TO THE STATE CAPITOL FOR DIGESTIVE PURPOSES” and Henry was like, “Sure” and then realized I was in a frenzy FitBit refresh sesh, trying to see how many more steps MARISOL had racked up while I was sitting on MY FAT ASS, EATING LUNCH.

This was a really great idea, actually. It was interesting to see all the … things.

I know this was pink for breast cancer awareness, but it was shocking at first glance! I loved it.

I had some thoughts on this.

Anyway, what a nice pitstop on our drive home! Of course, I realized too late that I should have asked Megan to ask her bf Eric if he had any recommendations, but we also didn’t want to spend too much additional time off the road. We were there for about two hours, but driving out, I was spotting some cute shops, etc that I would have liked to check out! And there was a cafe called Amps (which looked like “Pimps” to me from afar because the font was weird) that we were parked near but I was so full after that lunch that the thought of adding a latte to the mix kind of made me burp.

So that was our drive home, in a nutshell! We didn’t do any other stops aside from rest areas, where Henry would get gas, pee, stock up on energy drinks, while I walked in circles in the parking lots. And we talked about NCT127 pretty much ALL DAY.