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?!). 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. 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.)

Jan 082023
 

In no particular order, these are the BEST BOOKS I read last year. All were 4.5 – 5 star reads for me. Looking over this list, the ones that I would place in my ultimate top tier, would be:

  1. Just Last Night (the character study in this was perfection; I felt like I knew these people)
  2. The Winners (obviously – PLEASE READ THE BEARTOWN TRILOGY, THANKS)
  3. The Summer That Melted Everything (I would pay to be able to read this for the first time again, it’s extraordinary)

I’m trying to do the “12 Books From 12 Friends” challenge this year, where you read one book recommended by a friend for each month of the year. I got some good recs on Instagram but still need 7 more.

The ones on my list so far:

  1. Invisible Life of Addie Larue: recommended by my friend Kelly. I attempted to read this the year it came out but DNFd it very early on. I’m willing to give it a second chance  though because I have a lot of friends who loved it. Maybe I’ll try it on audio this time??
  2. Bel Canto: recommended by Katrina and I am STOKED because it’s by Ann Patchett and I have wanted to read more by her ever since I read The Dutch House, because that was a solid 5 stars for me.
  3. Twenty Years Later: my friend Eve recommended me a bunch of books a few weeks ago, and I currently have THREE of them in my possession courtesy of the great Carnegie Library, but this book by Charlie Donlea is the one I am specifically adding to the challenge calendar.
  4. Devil House: I feel like I might regret this because it was a hard DNF for me when it came out but like Addie Larue, I will give it another go with the audiobook this time. It’s a book that I really want to love but it started off so.effing.dry.
  5. Michelle Obama’s Becoming: my friend Heather suggested quite a few that I have not read, but since I have had this one on my TBR for quite some time, I will take this as a sign to crack it open finally!

OK so if you’re reading this and feel like controlling my TBR – tell me some of your favorite books! They don’t have to be new! The only types of book I don’t like are sci-fi and self-help. I will try out anything else! Please and thank you!!

Jan 072023
 

I read at least 10 books a month all year until we arrived at December. Then my motivation petered out bigly. I had a lot of stress that month too so I’m sure that played a big role.

Anyway, let’s get this over with.

  1. Paper Girls: The Complete Story

The only good thing about it was that there was a Monster Squad poster in one of the characters’ bedrooms. Otherwise, this was a complete waste of my time. Not one memorable character. Extremely confusing plot. One star only because Goodreads doesn’t let you go lower than that, lol.

2. The Winners – Fredrik Backman

One of the best books I read all year, no contest. Backman did not disappoint with this third and final installment of the Beartown series. I was already quietly weeping before anything either happened and if you read book one, you know who is going to die in this book and even that didn’t prepare me for the absolute GUTTING that occurred when that time came. The way I ugly cried. The way I am tearing up again, over a month later, just by writing this.

This is such a dork alert, but one of the things I’m so excited about for our trip next summer is buying a copy of Beartown in Sweden, Backman’s home country. I just feel like that would be so special!

If there is only one thing you ever listen to me about, let it be Beartown. I will be singing the praises of this series for the rest of my damn life.

GO READ IT!! Bobo and Benji will be in your heart forever. Trust.

3. Fleishman Is In Trouble – Taffy Brodesser-Akner

What a shit book. I didn’t care about anyone in this. Narrated by Fleishman’s friend for some reason. Boring. How was this turned into a TV series? SAME WITH PAPER GIRLS?!

One star. Do not recommend. I hate-read every page and then hated myself for doing so. This was very deserving of a big fat DNF but nope, dumbo Erin had to go and waste her time reading until the end.

4. You’re Invited – Amanda Jayatissa

I was excited because this was set in Sri Lanka and I thought it would pander to my wanderlust but it was so fucking dumb. Not thrilling. Unlikeable characters. Stupid plot.

5. On a Quiet Street – Seraphina Nova Glass

Megan saved December by lending me this domestic thriller reminiscent of Desperate Housewives and I was into it! It was really just what I needed: entertaining, twisty, tense, exciting. A pretty solid ride. Would recommend!

6. An Anonymous Girl – Greer Hendriks & Sarah Pekkanen

I still don’t know how I feel about this one. It was a quick read, it kept my attention, but…there were things that didn’t add for me in the end and I was sort of walked away from this book confused and moderately unsatisfied. OK, I definitely didn’t love the ending. But the plot itself was interesting and suspenseful, and there were times when I actually felt a little scared and stressed out.

Some of the chapters are from the POV of a therapist and I really appreciated the way those chapters were written. This was my second book by this writing duo and I do enjoy them. But this one possibly had a bit too much going on and was also extremely far-fetched which, you know, I don’t mind that very much – don’t most of us read books to escape reality anyway?

7. Home Sweet Christmas – Susan Mallery

I didn’t realize this was #2 in a series until I had already started reading it but apparently, each book also works as a standalone. This was fine. VERY light, low drama. It follows four residents of a small town called Wishing Tree – two women, two men – who eventually pair up and begin relationships after resisting for most of the book. Of course, conflict / misunderstandings arise for both couples, but SPOILER both duos prevail in the end.

Super saccharine. A very light and easy read, even easier to forget afterward. I already forget everyone’s names haha.

****

Happily, I already started 2023 off with a five star book, so fuck off, December.

Jan 052023
 

I left my brain somewhere between 2022 and 2023, I think. Literally feels empty up in there.

On that note, here is a dump of photos from my phone, thoughts salvaged from my hollow head, and some things I’ve been enjoying as of late like this Kdrama, The Glory:

Yooooo. This made me a legit Song Hye Kyo fan, honestly. She is incredible in this. It’s about a woman who was VICIOUSLY bullied by a group of classmates in night school. They show it in flashbacks and it is graphic and extremely disturbing so major trigger warning there.

Anyway, she drops out of school and buses her time FOR YEARS, plotting her revenge.

As an adult, she is very cold and guarded, but she crosses paths with a young doctor and a middle aged housekeeper, and the relationships she develops with them are so fun to watch and provide a tiny bit of levity but this show is a HEAVY DRAMA/PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER.

I especially loved it because unlike most Kdramas, this was only 8 episodes long and each episode was between 45-55 minutes which is perfect.

I watched the last one today and was screaming at the end but thankfully, there is a Part 2 coming in March!

Chooch took this picture of Girl Buddy lounging in a pine tree at the corner of our block. I love her so much. We had a nice talk on Monday when she came to the porch for walnoot time.

Color palette for the attic game room – yes, we finally got to the point where paint samples could be purchased! 90% or the stuff is out of the attic now, either tossed, donated, or stored away elsewhere for now. It was mostly books, CDs, old computer shit, and tons of Chooch’s baby stuff.

Oh and basically my entire middle school and high school career in the form of notes.

I’m really excited to get started on this for real! I need a project / something to “design.”

I took down all the Christmas decorations on Sunday (well, the temporary ones, anyway lol) and then bought this cutie sweetie Valentine heart garland thingie at Target. I love Valentine’s Day decorations sooo much. (Hate the actual day though because, you know, Henry is so unromantic. We had JUST come home from Target and I was already balancing precariously on a chair, trying to hang this in the Cure corner. I’m pretty sure I still had my jacket on, even.

I love it!

Chooch and Henry were like, “Mmm, great – more decor for us to get tangled in.”

I just barely snagged this photo of the sisters sort of sitting together. I think they’re still pouting because I moved most of their cat houses around the house in preparation for the Christmas party and never moved them back, but they seem to really love sitting inside this new table, so I guess it’s a reasonable trade-off for them.

On Sunday, I reached for the stars and added purple rice to my purple potato boba and at first sip, I sputtered, “OK THAT WAS A CHOICE” but then I felt compelled to go in for another sip. And then another, and then another. Yeah, turns out I was into it and will 100% choose this as an add-in again.

Is NewJeans my new favorite girl group?? OMG I THINK MAYBE? It’s a very close tie with Aespa and STAYC though, but every single New Jeans release has been an undeniable bop. This is their latest and it is in my head constantly. Also, I love how all of these newer girl groups have super distinct dance styles, and that NewJeans is so slinky and 90s-vibin’.

Another fave is Stray Kids’ Case 143 which I didn’t immediately love, but it’s been a slow-burn on my brain (is that where my brain went!?!?) and is in my head quite often. I shared it with Nate and Lauren today, and they both loved it also, but then hours later, Nate told me he couldn’t get it out of his head (much like when I sent him the Ame Bibabi classic, Chin Up High, which became an accidental department obsession that we randomly quote to each other out of context) and Lauren of course loved the visuals and the fact that she now knows what “no cap” means ever since we had a whole-ass GenZ slang conversation in group chat several weeks ago, which is still alarming to me when I think about it, knowing that we let Glenn loose on the streets with words like “bussin'” in his arsenal).

Anyway, Henry loves this song and will randomly sing the 143 part to the cats. Also, I had no idea that 143 meant I love you in olden lighthouse days and that Mister Rogers even did an entire episode about it!?

I’m so glad we went to see Stray Kids last year!!! While we’re talking about them, Chooch was so pissed several weeks ago when I was watching one of the Korean music award shows and he didn’t know who they were! He was guessing every boy group he could think of and I was like, “DANG, DANG, DANG.” Then I said, “Watch this” as I muted it and called Henry into the room.

“Henry, can you tell who this without hearing the song?” I asked, shooting Chooch a smug look while he folded his arms across his chest and responded with a “There’s no way” facial expression.

Henry looked at the TV for about 1.5 seconds before saying, “Stray Kids,” popping a prune in his mouth, and cockily strolling out of the room.

KPOP DAD, people. KPOP DAD.

Over the weekend, we were in the car and Henry casually whispered, “Fuck em all, fuck em by” apropos of nothing.

Jan 042023
 

NO ONE ASKED, but I’m doing it anyway because my life is dreary and rollercoasterless right now.

You guys, riding roller coasters has been like, therapy-adjacent for me over the last several years.  It is maybe the most dorkiest thing I have going on and I truthfully do not give a single shit because falling down the rabbit hole of coaster manufacturers and CoasterTube has been SO MUCH FUN and truly elevated the experience of riding roller coasters in general. Like, before my first ride on T-Express at Everland in 2018, I was a casual coaster rider at best. I was definitely more into dark and flat rides.

I can’t believe that prior to 2018, I had no idea what Rocky Mountain Construction was. OR EVEN B&M. I don’t even think I knew who manufactured Steel Phantom/Phantom’s Revenge, let alone knowing that there were TWO manufacturers!

And just like Kpop, this is something that we all enjoy as a family (well….Chooch is not so into Kpop anymore but still likes Korea in general).

2022 was full of so many coasters, and new-to-us parks, too! Henry and I even went to parks just the two of us numerous times too, like on a date kind of! (Kennywood 3x, Cedar Point, Waldameer.)

Before I get into the coasters, here’s a list of all the parks we went to in 2022:

  • Busch Gardens Williamsburg
  • Seaworld Orlando
  • Universal Studios Islands of Adventure
  • Busch Gardens Tampa
  • Fun Spot Orlando
  • Fun Spot Kissimmee
  • Carowinds
  • Kennywood (at least 7x I feel like?)
  • Cedar Point (3x)
  • Six Flags New England
  • Waldameer
  • Michigan’s Adventure
  • Sylvan Beach
  • Morey’s Piers
  • Six Flags Great Adventure
  • Hershey
  • Mt. Olympus
  • Six Flags Great America
  • Dollywood

I *think* that’s all of them!

And now for my Top Coaster Experiences of the year! I’m considering the whole entire experience, not just “wow this is the greatest coaster ever” because if we’re being honest, Steel Vengeance is probably still my #1 coaster but EVERY EXPERIENCE TRYING TO RIDE THE FUCKER HAS BEEN MISERABLE. First of all, it’s located in one of the busiest parks in the country so the wait time is always absurd. Second, it’s a maintenance nightmare. Almost EVERY SINGLE TIME WE HAVE BEEN IN LINE FOR THIS, IT HAS BROKEN DOWN.

So no, Steel Vengeance will not be on this list. And it really breaks my heart!!

In no particular order, other than maybe the order in which they were ridden, here is my list with POVs!!

  1. Pantheon – Busch Gardens Williamsburg: I literally tried to tell this story to anyone who would listen when we came back from the trip. My mom totally cut me off when I tried talking about it the night we had cake for Chooch’s birthday because I guess she thinks this shit is so boring, lol. BUT NOT YOU, BLOG. Anyway, Pantheon had only been open for about a month when we rode it and you might think, “You ran all the way to this ride, almost passed out, only to be told it was down for testing and then proceeded to wait for 2 hours in line waiting for it to open, how was this a good experience?” IT.JUST.WAS. It made that first ride (first train of the day, front row!) so much more meaningful and memorable. We became pals with the ride ops, shared knowing laughs with the other people in line with us, collected inside jokes like Pokemon. It was such a highlight of our spring break trip and the coaster itself is PHENOMENAL. There is nothing else like it.

2. MAKO – Sea World OrlandoYou guys is this my favorite hyper? I DON’T KNOW, MAYBE?!!? Hilariously, we thought this was Chooch’s 150th or 200th (I forget) coaster but of course his spreadsheet was wrong and it ended up being some kid coaster, lol. Anyway, this is making the list because toward the end of the night, the ride attendants let us stay on for like 3x in a row (and we probably could have cycled this even longer but dumb Henry was waiting for us off-ride because it was time to leave ugh).

3. VELOCICOASTER – UNIVERSAL: Yeah, this is a top 5 / top 3 coaster for me, fam. It is pretty much flawless. The queue was LIKE A WELL-OILED MACHINE, it kept people moving through so smoothly. The locker system? Mwah. The theming? Perfection. THE RIDE ITSELF? MIND-BLOWING. This was one of the coasters I was legit worried about when planning this trip because I thought for sure the lines would be out of control, but the longest we waited for this was probably 45 minutes. We rode it MULTIPLE times, front row, back row, in the morning, afternoon, night. Every single ride was ridiculous. Speechless. Believe the hype.

4. Iron Gwazi – Busch Gardens Tampa: Our spring break trip was really so fucking hype, I still think about it all of the time, especially this RMC MASTERPIECE. Ask me on a certain day and I might just say that this is my favorite coaster, not Steel Vengeance. (Actually, it’s neither of them because something changed for me this year and we will get to that shortly!) This coaster blew my mind. I can’t even explain it but I want to make a pilgrimage to Idaho and kneel at the feet of everyone inside the RMC headquarters. Honestly. It’s crazy because this POV looks like it runs so slow but in actuality it feels like this thing is trying to fucking kill you. Like, it has no right to do the shit it does.

5. Great White – Morey’s Piers: You guys. Riding an iconic wooden coaster that literally goes out over the beach in Wildwood, while Morey’s Piers is closed to the general public, and the only light is courtesy of the fucking moon? Uh, yes this is going to make it in my Top Whatever List of 2022. SUCH A VIBE.

6. El Toro – Six Flags Great Adventure:  Our luck with El Toro has been awful but three times was definitely the charm last August when we went to Great Adventure and FINALLY got to ride this. NUMEROUS TIMES. Honestly? This coaster was not even running to its potential* but it was STILL a crazy-good experience. Painful? OH FUCK YEAH. I had a wicked bruise on my elbow for days after. But true coaster psychopaths ride this bitch. The ride ops are fucking nuts. The station is CHAOS. Every fucking moment I spent on this thing was an experience. I will never ever ever forget the madness of musical seats, fighting to get a spot on the last train of the night. It was us and our people. Every single motherfucker in that station that night was CRAZY. I felt crazy, too! I had so much adrenaline from these cycling night rides that it was hard for me to even go to sleep that night. What an experience.

*(it actually got shut down ONE WEEK LATER after a bunch of riders got injured when it hit a POTHOLE in the track, way to care for your rides and patrons, Six Flags. I hope that Six Flags does the right thing and fixes this baby so that it can reopen and provide SAFE RIDES like Intamin intended. Also, I should note that this is basically the sister coaster to T-Express in Korea, the coaster that turned me into an enthusiast!!)

OK and now for my KING, my BAE, my OPPA. I truly believe this is my forever #1, especially after this season.

PHANTOM’S REVENGE. HOMEPARK PRIDE. I have raved about this steel god enough times on here that you have to know by now. I want out of town friends to visit me so that I can take them here and make them ride this because it is SHEER JOY and there is no other coaster like this in the world. It makes nearly every enthusiast’s Top 20/Top 50 list and it makes me so proud.

It just never gets old. The track is now purple, but here is an older POV. It doesn’t do this thing an ounce of justice.

Well, that’s all for today! Please, if you feel like it, tell me what your favorite coasters are! What’s your home park? Favorite park? Best coaster memory? I love reading these things!

 

Jan 022023
 

The Blogging Manual tells me that this is the time to reflect on the past year and do recaps out of pure narcissistic indulgence. I’m off work today and it’s dreary outside, so why not?! We’ll talk about my favorite road trips in this one, and perhaps later I’ll come back and tell you about my favorite coaster experiences?!

2022 was pretty decent. Covid has definitely made me appreciate every little thing, and that mentality really boosted my feelings toward the trips we took last year, even the ones that maybe someone would look at and deem as “so mid” because it wasn’t a tropical locale or Europe, but an amusement park in the upper mitt of Michigan or some strange small town in Indiana.

Anyway, here are some of my favorite trips from 2022, in no particular order except that the Spring Break Trip is totally uncontested as #1:

  • The Spring Break Roller Coaster Trip: For a trip that ended up being a last minute Plan B to the Plan A itinerary that would have had us going through Texas and Missouri, this ended up being the week that I relied on in my memories to get me through shitty days. It was jam-packed with some of the most fun days I have ever had as an adult, and we even mostly got along famously as a family, which is unheard of when you put the three Oh Honestlys in a car together for any length of time. This had us going through Virginia, where we spent a day at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, and then the bulk of the trip had us in Florida for Universal Studios Islands of Adventure, Sea World Orlando, Fun Spot Orlando, Busch Gardens Tampa, and Fun Spot Kissimmee. We spent a day in St. Augustine before continuing on home, making a pit stop at Carowinds in North Carolina, and then Kennywood for opening weekend the day we got home. It was action-packed, exhilarating, and supremely fun. I loved that trip so much!!!

  • Michigan for Bill & Jessi Time!: With vaccinations and boosters making things sort of more safe (???), I was desperate to see some of my friends, especially the ones who live outside of Pittsburgh. Bill and Jessi are those friends who you can pick right back up with after years of not seeing them and it’s like no time has passed at all. It was SO GOOD to see them after all these years (I think 2018 was the last time??) and were so appreciative that they made time for us. I especially loved exploring Ypsilanti with them! I’m hoping that we can host them again here in Pittsburgh soon. I have wanted to take them to the Bayernhof for years now because I think they would appreciate the kitschy vibes and feel like we would have a hilarious time there! Or the Mattress Factory?!?! They have been here to visit us so many times but it’s usually for Chooch’s birthday parties so we never really get to show them around that much.

  • New Hampshire for Alyson & Ryan Shenanigans!: I hadn’t seen Alyson IRL since 2014 and after years of writing “Hopefully next year we’ll get to hang out again!” in all of my Xmas cards, I knew it was time to finally get serious about it. Perspective is wild, man. I don’t want to waste any more time not seeing my friends!! I was so glad that Alyson and her husband Ryan were game for a hangout. One of the weekends that were free for them happened to be my birthday weekend! Chooch was in Mexico at the time and I knew that staying here for my birthday would be utterly depressing. Dude, not only was it amazing to see Alyson again  (I freaking cried!), but meeting Ryan was wonderful! What a chill, kind man! We had the best conversations, delicious food (they made me soondubu jjigae for my birthday dinner!!!), leisurely nature walks, hilarious diner hangouts…it was amazing. I think this feeling was what that dumb Chicken Noodle Soup for the Soul book means?!

  • The Slickly-Planned Excuse to Meet Two Members of Chooch’s Mexico Squad: I originally had several other ideas for Labor Day Weekend, but then while Chooch was in Mexico, he became part of a “squad,” and some of those kids live near Chicago. Also near Chicago is a Six Flags that we had never been to, and also kind of near there is Wisconsin Dells, the place I have wanted to go to ever since Henry and I drove through it on our way home from a music festival in 2004ish and had a huge-ass fight because we were broke AF back then and he said “NO WE CANNOT STOP HERE, WE ARE DRIVING STRAIGHT HOME!” and then I made him pull over so I could sit in the back because I didn’t want to be near him anymore. Sounds so unlike me, I know. I was v. immature back then.

  • Six Flags New England for Memorial Day!: Another new-to-us park! We hadn’t been to Massachusetts since….2013? I  think? Granted, we didn’t do much of anything there aside from the park, but we did some time in parts of Connecticut, and I got to hand-free a chipmunk in the Black Squirrel Park!! We had a lot of fun at Six Flags though and it was just nice being in a different area for once.

  • WILDWOOD!!!!: This weekend was pretty insane. We went specifically for the Morey’s Piers Coastin’ By the Ocean coaster enthusiast event and it was SO MUCH FUN. But we also hit up Six Flags Great Adventure and Hershey Park on the way home. I won’t say it was the perfect weekend because I felt 100% sleep-deprived and had a ton of moody moments at Morey’s, and Hershey was soooo mid as usual, but there were still more bright spots at Wildwood to counteract the mood swings, and Great Adventure ended up being FUCKING AMAZING after we had two so-so visits in the past.

There were so many other little weekend trips that happened and they were all wonderful! We went to Cedar Point twice, the aforementioned Indiana Beach, Newark twice which is not that great BUT we went for Stray Kids and NCT127 concerts so that made it 100% worthwhile, and Dollywood! I have to give Henry credit (grudgingly, of course) because these trips are not the least bit leisurely. There is so much driving involved and to be honest, I do not help with that very much lol. And then once we get to the destination, it’s non-stop running around theme parks, making strategic plans to beat crowds, getting totally busted on wooded coasters. It is A LOT and I am truly so lucky that Henry is ok with this kind of chaotic lifestyle. I mean, I don’t want to BRAG, but I think I kind of have a fun family. :)

I also want to include the aforementioned “Chooch’s Mexico Trip” here even though I wasn’t there because it was so cool living vicariously through him, waiting for CIEE Instagram and email updates, trying to piece things together by visiting (NOT STALKING LOL) the friends he made on Instagram. I’m just sincerely relieved and grateful that Henry and I were able to make this happen for him, although Chooch did most of it on his own by getting an academic scholarship. Plus, he got a transferrable college credit out of it, and an A in the Spanish course he was taking while there, so I whole-heartedly feel that it was worth it even though I was scared to death of sending him to another country alone, as a 16-year-old, during a pandemic. I think this is something that he will keep close to his heart for the rest of his life, even though if I say this to him right now, he’ll probably vomit and ask me why I’m suddenly saying “sincere mom things.”

I don’t think I ever recapped his last week there because by the  time CIEE sent the email update with pictures, he was already home and showing me the “real” pictures and regaling us with stories about the Girls Gone Wild-type shit that was going down behind the scenes. One of the girls got kicked out and lost her college credit because she was sneaking out to go to clubs and then skipping class, lol.

Chooch already had a hearty lust for travel but this definitely solidified that in him. He is obsessed with geography, and has memorized every country on the map along with their flags, just for funsies. I hope he studies abroad in college, too!

****

Hopefully, 2023 will be full of more trips, big and small! I always hesitate to put things out there because of my ever-present fear of JINXING myself (looking at you, Euro Coaster Trip 2020 that was corona-canceled, lol), but we do have a big trip planned for next August with Coaster Crew. They’re doing a 9-day Nordic trip full of amusement parks in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. We have already been paying into that so hopefully it happens!  I take nothing for granted anymore, though.

If you read this whole dumb thing, thank you for being a real one and I hope your 2023 is full of all the best things! If anything, this post got me to crack down on my category / blog post organization so I think everything is now properly filed away for easier access?! Blogging is tough.

Jan 012023
 

Hello from 2023! I hope everyone reading this had a safe and fun New Year’s Eve! We’re not super big party animals and are always content with it just being the three of us. I considered inviting some people over, but I honestly would never be able to forgive myself if something happened to any of my friends on their way home. I just don’t trust NYE drivers.

To be honest, my only plan was to just indulge Chooch by playing some of his dumb games, drinking enough wine to get a slight buzz while doing some Kpop cardio dance with Henry (it’s so hilarious watching him attempt body rolls) and then ringing in the New Year while watching the live YouTube stream of the SMTown SMCU Palace concert.

You…would have had to be there. But it was actually so much fun.

First, though, Henry and I went to Target and bought some clearance Xmas shit. I love Xmas bunting/garland SO MUCH so I got some of that for next year, and also a Valentine/hearts one which I immediately strung up in the Cure corner upstairs. This will be for permanent, year-round enjoyment, btw.

Then we picked up Chooch from his last night of work of Dunkin’. Yep, he gave his notice last week. It was just so stupid because he chose a Dunkin’ where his friend also works, so that they could work together but then the manager consistently scheduled them apart (hmmm…wonder why, lol) and also the Dunkin’ is close to his school so it was convenient for him to get to, but super inconvenient for us because one of us* would always have to pick him up so that he wouldn’t have to catch a bus downtown at night.

*(It was always Henry except for one whole whopping time when I offered to do it only because it was the night of our Christmas party and I needed Henry to stay home and finish things haha.)

Chooch is actually considering going back to the McDonald’s he worked at last year. I will be sure to keep you posted because I’m sure you can’t stand the suspense.

Anyway, back at home, we ate vegan frozen pizza and played some Happy Dinosaur game with Chooch and it was very frustrating. I won somehow and that made Chooch extremely annoyed.

Paused to do some Kpop Cardio….

Then played Don’t Be a Dik Dik.

The only family group picture of the night, look at us, to quote the venerable poet Ame Bibabi as we do all day long in group chat at work,  p-p-p-p-partying til we die, with our chins up high.

I won this stupid game too. Chooch had enough of us and went back to his room to watch instructional videos on some of the other games he got for Christmas. You guys, I’m glad Chooch is so into tabletop games suddenly, but they seem very hard, way over my head. I hope he can find a good group of people to play this shit with him because it ain’t me.

The SM thing officially started at 10 but the first hour was some reallllly boring panel on sustainability and SM’s tree-planting initiative and I’m happy for them, I am, but this should have been separate because the actual concert didn’t start until 11pm and it was STILL GOING ON AT 2am when I finally cried, “OK, I GIVE UP! I CANNOT STAY AWAKE ANY LONGER!” and we sadly went to bed, missing one more performance by both NCT127 and NCT Dream, EXO’s Love Shot (I was at least able to see a video today), two more NCT U performances and the comeback stage for Girls on Top which I was able to also watch today so that was ok.

And SM also announced a SuperM comeback for early 2023, I’m assuming they’re waiting for Taemin and Baekhyun to come back from the military and not replacing them because that would be stupid, but we’re all wondering what the fuck Lucas’s status is?!?! They put him on hiatus over a year ago for accusations of gaslighting (???) that it turned out weren’t even true and still, nothing. Like, let the man out of the penalty box already!! Netizens are speculating that he’s been replaced in SuperM with TVXQ’s Changmin and I’m not going to lie, that would be legendary but….I would rather have Lucas.

It was so awesome seeing all of the stages with EXO and SHINee members though!! I honestly thought it was a great concert.

At one point, I was having a conversation with Henry about Kpop agencies and Chooch did one of his perfectly timed snark drive-bys, in which he said, “Wow that was so deep and inspirational” and then retreated back up to his lair.

What an absolute brat.

Anyway, I just really want to share these SMTown videos because they made me ugly cry lololol. I love it when the SM artists collab.

It’s not the same without Taemin though, that is FOR SURE.

And my favorite collaboration of the whole thing was this one with Jeno (NCT Dream), Kai (EXO), Karina (Aespa) and Seulgi (Red Velvet):

I hope my favorite Kpop cardio channel, Give Me Five Thailand, does a routine for this song!!! It makes me nostalgic for Friday nights hanging out at the South Park skating rink but 100% not skating. It just has such a chill, 90s r&b flow. I never knew I needed these four to collab on a song together until now!! Also, I love that Henry also stayed up until 2, watching this with me.

On that note, 2022 was actually pretty great, and I don’t have any resolutions for this year. I just want to get through it in one piece and hope the same for all of you too!

Dec 312022
 
  1. A Lesson In Physics

Henry babysits his grandkids on Wednesday evenings so I often have to make my own dinner if I don’t feel like waiting for him to be done. I mean, he’s just right next door but I’m pretty accustomed to eating right after I log off of work. We had sweet potatoes and veggie burgers in stock, so I figured I would be a big girl and handle dinner for myself. Luckily, Chooch was at a friend’s house, so I didn’t have to also be a parent as well.

Since I was already using the microwave for the sweet potato, I decided to cook the veggie burger in a pan. This is something I have tackled on my own in the past, so I had confidence in myself. The only problem is that vegan cheese doesn’t melt very fast when I’m doing the pan thing, so I usually have to pop it in the microwave afterward.

But then!!! I had this really great idea that I could use a LID. I have done this before! It kind of works, sort of! Probably would work better if I had the patience to keep the lid on longer, but whatever. A girl’s gotta eat.

When I put the lid on, it immediately made this strong sucking sound and I quickly realized that it was now STUCK on the pan.  I panicked and took the pan off the stove so it could cool off and maybe let the lid pop off, but in my panic, I had slammed it down on the cutting board which is made from plastic, so now the kitchen had become ripe with the stench of MOLTEN PLASTIC AND BURNING PAN, as tendrils of the melted cutting board were dangling off the bottom of the pan like space creatures. I was SCREAMING, fighting for my life, trying to wrench the lid off with my hands wrapped in towels, but only succeeding in loosening the knob.

I really tried to resolve this on my own but after a solid minute of NO SOLUTIONS, NO HOTLINE TO CALL, I cried uncle and texted Henry.

Well, I guess you could say I cried “Henry.”

Now I had to put my shoes on while holding this piping hot pan over my head, while the cats were watching me – one was on high alert, the other was still half-asleep on the couch watching with one eye half-slitted open. I walk into Blake’s house and Calvin and Lily immediately are like FULL OF QUESTIONS.

“Why did you do that?”

“Because I can’t cook.”

“Why can’t you cook?!?!?!”

I DON’T KNOW, ASK MY MOM WHY SHE NEVER TAUGHT ME!

Meanwhile, Henry was in the performing pan surgery in the kitchen, trying not to swear in front of the kids, but being SO PISSED because he HATES when his kitchenware is abused. Apparently, I used “the wrong lid.” I thought it was the right one because it fit perfectly?

“YEAH THAT’S THE PROBLEM IT FIT TOO PERFECTLY,” Henry grunted, trying to wedge a knife in between the sides of the pan and the lid. And then he realized that in addition to the lid because the wrong size, allegedly, it was also the kind that had “long sides” so that’s what was making it even harder to get it off the pan. The steam/heat made the sides of the lid get sucked right on it. #physics

Literally, how will I ever live without Henry? I just do not have time for this basic adult life bullshit.

2. Doug’s Slow Descent

We had planned to go to Kennywood after work on Thursday. Like most amusement parks, they do a  holiday light thing and it’s included in our season pass, so why not? I had a feeling it was going to be p-p-p-acked, being the week after Christmas and an unusually, unseasonally balmy night of 55 degrees. I mean, we had just come out of a multi-day freezing cold snap so I figured this would bring people out in droves.

And I was correct. It was so crowded that we got stuck in stand-still traffic inside the parking lot. And Phantom doesn’t even run during the holiday season, so we started to question why we were even there. I had billed it earlier as “family fun time,” but Chooch goes, “There aren’t even any rides running?? How are we supposed to have fun together as a family then? You expected us to just walk around, looking at the lights? WOW, SO MUCH FUN.”

Mmm, sixteen-year-old backseat backtalk. Love that.

So I called it. “Let’s just leave and go out to eat somewhere,” I sighed. It wasn’t that I was that broken up over Kennywood, because we had already been there like 6 or 7 times this season, but I was fucking hungry.

I pulled up Yelp as we left Kennywood, and then we all had a microburst of arguments over where to eat. You would think we’re new to the area. Chooch and I both just wanted a veggie burger and Henry will eat anywhere, literally, would probably eat soup from a boot if he had to, so he didn’t care where we went. I just put “veggie burger” into Yelp and one of the options was some place called GOODFELLAS in Swissvale, which should have been the only red flag I needed. But I still said, “Let’s try this place called GOODFELLAS in Swissvale.”

We never go to that area of town really, but since we were still close to Kennywood when I was on Yelp, it came up in the search. I just knew it was a bar/lounge, and we’re fine with places like that. When we got there, the lot was PACKED so I thought, wow that’s a good sign. Maybe this place was good!

This is important to note for the future when you might wonder aloud, “Why is Henry not transitioning into Hero Mode?” – he had to go back to the car because as we were walking through the parking lot, I pointed out that Chooch was carrying his Dunkin’ coffee and he was just going to throw it out at the door until he realized there was no garbage can, so he made Henry take it back to the car, lol.

Chooch and I continued walking through the lot. There was an old man sitting in a chair outside of the place, and some not-as-old guy was standing next to him. The old guy got up from the chair right as Chooch and I approached. In one blurred motion, he turned to the other guy and promptly fell into him. Oh! OK. This is happening. Shit.

The other guy was too busy holding a cigarette and his beer, so he let the old man fall into him and then slide down his body ONTO THE GROUND, LANDING ON HIS FACE.  Literally, this was accompanied by a crumbling sound and a hollow thud as his body became one with the parking lot.

I screamed and the still-standing dude was just like so whatever about this, and proceeded to let the old man lay there??? In my CONCERNED CITIZEN tone, I say, “Oh my god, is he ok, do you need me to call 911?” It turns out, he was just suuuuuper drunk. Meanwhile, Henry is missing this big opportunity to be the HERO because he still hasn’t joined us?! The car was not THAT far away, so I feel like Henry purposely hung back because he didn’t want to get involved? It was so awkward because Chooch and I are so anti when it comes to people.

The standing guy is like, “No, he’s fine. COME ON DOUG, GET IT TOGETHER!” And then he like, nudges Doug with his foot.

The standing guy was really annoyed about this situation, but Doug was squirming face-down on the parking lot and I’m like, “Can I help?” because I feel like this is the thing to say at that moment, but dude is all, “No it’s fine, I got it, sorry guys,” as he’s PULLING DOUG UP WITH ONE HAND AND THEN RE-DROPPING HIM ONTO THE GROUND?? I wanted to flee so bad.

I didn’t know what to do, so Chooch and I stepped over him and started to walk into the place, but as soon as I opened the door and caught a glimpse of the inside, I realized it was just a whole roomful of more Dougs, swaying and falling into each other while hootin’ and hollerin’, so I turned around and said, “Nope, nope nope nope” and Henry had now joined us and was like, “Why is this man being dragged?” Anyway, we ended up having a delicious but uneventful dinner at an Indian restaurant  in Monroeville, where Henry says we ate once when I was pregnant but had to leave after appetizers because pre-Chooch decided he didn’t want any of that.

I was telling the group chat this story at work yesterday, thinking it would get maybe a “lol” and a “aw poor Doug,” BUT NO. It spiraled out into a sensation that lasted the ENTIRE WORK DAY. The Doug references never stopped flying. Nate wanted to change the chat name to “COME ON DOUG.” The Goodellas website was scoured and dissected. (They have a quinoa veggie burger!) Lauren considered switching her gym’s website to the Sinatra WordPress Theme: “Whatever gets me Doug,” she said.

“‘It’s a Swissvale thing, you just wouldn’t understand’,” Wendi quoted from the website. “Well that just says it all.”

Wendi suggested that Lauren also have a classy Last Supper mural in her gym, too, but with like WWE people.

“Like Chyna,” she said. “….and Elvis.”

I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard at work. I suggested that I have Doug pins made and this was met with a resounding YES PLZ so I called Henry.

“Henry,” I panted breathlessly. Laughing takes so much out me. “Do we still have the pin maker?”

“Yes, why…” Henry asked, his words dragged down with the weight of so much suspicion. “Are you making Doug pins?” he asked with a sigh, already knowing the answer.

The day before in group chat, we were learning GenZ slang, some of which I knew, some I wish I didn’t.

“Guys, I just asked our Resident GenZ’r – Chooch – for his Doug review and he said ‘it wasn’t that deep. It probably happens to him every day, so.'” We decided that “That’s so Doug” should be the new “that’s so mid.”

Glenn was disappointed that I didn’t get a video.

“Henry said we could probably go back tonight and I’d have another opportunity,” I said.

“You could probably go right now,” Nate added.

I also suggested that we throw this place in the pot as a suggestion for our department’s post-Xmas work party and everyone was enthusiastically on board with this.

“We just need to rent a PT Cruiser, tommy guns and fedoras,” Nate said.

Hours later, Lauren said, “100% where even is Swissvale lol.”

Then our west coast crew signed on:

It was, sincerely, the best way to sign off to 2022. My work friends are so chaotic, and I love them with my whole heart!

UPDATE FROM 1/1/23: Henry and I are in the attic, still trying to clean this shit out so that Chooch can have a lounge/game room. Henry found an unopened bank statement from 2005. He opened it, glanced at it, and the first thing he saw was a charge from UDIPI CAFE which is where we ate after the DESCENT OF DOUG. WHAT DOES IT MEAN.

Dec 302022
 

Oh hey let’s try to put Xmas 2022 to bed before 2023 happens.

We were originally going to host this year but then Corey offered to try his hand at it for the first time ever and we HAPPILY said ok!

You should know that Corey is totally like me in the sense that he is severely lacking in a lot of basic life skills. OK, he’s probably definitely more of an adult than I am, even though he’s 10 years younger, but when it comes to KITCHEN STUFF, we are motherfucking TODDLERS. The days leading up to Xmas were very stressful for him and I could tell by the CAPSLOCK texts he was sending from Trader Joe’s that he was on the edge. Even little decisions like “elderberry lemon or rhubarb soda? I’LL GET BOTH” had him spiraling out.

The biggest hurdle for him was conquering the SPINACH DIP recipe he found on TIKTOK. He ended up getting the wrong cheese and asked me if aged parmesan would work instead of mozzarella, as if I would know?!!?

It turned out great, whatever he did to it! And he had it arranged so nicely, I was v. proud of him! Food placement is my forte, food prep not so much, so the fact that he pulled off BOTH was very impressive to me!

Henry made the ham for the meat-o’s (le grossioso) and a vegan beef Wellington for me and Chooch, and my mom made all the delicious sides.

OK, so Henry didn’t make the version I sent him because it included a mushroom pate layer and beets, meaning that Chooch would not be partaking, but this basic ass version was still incredibly delectable. I have never had a real beef Wellington and my only frame of reference for it was Gordon Ramsey forcing the cooks on Hell’s Kitchen to make it, resulting in 99% of them getting it thrown back at them to the tune of “YOU DONKEY!”

Corey wanted to try it too, which resulted in Henry having to cut it for him….

….something he’s been doing since 2004. :)

BUT YOU GUYS YOU GUYS WAIT YOU GUYS: Henry made the earl grey pie again!!!

Apparently, he realized while making this one that he left out a step when making the one for the pie party – he forgot to mix in the whipped cream. This didn’t change the taste too much but it did make it fluffier. I liked how the OG one had more of a butterscotch pie-texture, but it was still good. Also, he went rogue on the first pie and added orange zest and juice to the milk while it was steeping and forgot to do it this time. Also, he didn’t have pistachios so he had to borrow some of Buddy’s walnuts.

Actually, this pie was basically completely different, now that I think about it!

Still fucking delicious though.

Wow. Happiness!

I got to sit in this chair from my Pappap’s house!

Then it turned into game night. Chooch brought really complicated games with him, forgetting that the Kelly Sibs like simple stuff. Mysterium was not that.

We took a break to do the Christmas Crackers I brought over. We have never done this before and apparently didn’t do it right at all, plus we all thought that they were going to explode with confetti so it was super anti-climatic except for Henry hitting me in the head:

Ryan got Chooch Code Words for Xmas, so we played that next. Chooch was really getting pissed at Corey for deviating from the directions, which was hilarious. Chooch can be a real dick when he’s in charge.

Clandestine shot of my mom!

A nice sibling picture. I was mad at the first attempts because my enthusiasm wasn’t being matched. This was the most I could get out of them!

It was such a fun night, and the only note I can end it on is…..

WEENER HAM.

Dec 292022
 

Hey-o, happy Thursday. Today I want to be sharing the homemade presents I prepared for my sibs and mom. I’m still on this kick where I want to repurpose the wallpaper that was salvaged from my Pappap’s house, and when my mom made me swear I wouldn’t spend money on Christmas gifts for her, I had an idea to use the wallpaper as the mat / background on a framed picture of the Gillcrest house.  I decided to make one for both of my brothers too since they both recently moved into their own homes and could probably use some personal effects like framed pictures.

I mean, OK, fine, I had to spend money on the frames, but they were 50% off at….Hobby Lobby, ugh. I’m such a sell-out. Much hypocrisy.

(I ended up using a similar picture, but from a different angle for this one and I don’t have it saved on my phone, but you get the idea.)

I love this shot so much because it’s how I will always remember the house. Flowering dogwood trees, sprawling lawn, blue skies. I think that I’m finally, mostly, at peace with the situation but what I wouldn’t give to go back in time and make sure the GROWN-UPS in the family did things differently in my Pappap’s absence. So much of what happened was preventable and it makes me sick that this house is now essentially gutted and in some stranger’s hands. I don’t think anyone is even living there! It’s almost like whoever bought it ran out of money partway into the renovations.

Not-so-secretly, I hope that Sharon is haunting THE FUCK out of that property.

Anyway. AHEM. Here is what the final products looked like:

I gave this one to Ryan: the wallpaper is from the living and dining rooms.

This one was for my mom: wallpaper from my grandparent’s bedroom. As she was watching Corey opening his, she rolled her eyes and said, “You and that wallpaper” and then saw that she also got a picture, so….lol.

Corey got the one using Sharon’s bedroom wallpaper because I thought it would mean the most to him, and also because he inherited some of her bedroom furniture when he bought a house!

My other gift came in the form of indulging Corey in his obsession with recreating our old sibling photos.

I suggested the following, with the idea that Henry could be Santa, but Corey said, “I am NOT sitting on Henry’s lap.” Lol!

I’m pretty sure this was taken at Meder’s, which is a greenhouse/nursery place that used to have reindeer in the back during the holidays that you could feed but then I think they got in trouble for having them or something so that’s no longer a thing, but they still have a Santa photo set-up as far as I know. Even when Chooch was a kid, I preferred coming to Meder’s for his annual Ho Ho portrait rather than the mall.

One time we brought Blake with us too when he was a teenagers and Santa told him to pull up his pants – this was when Blake was a scene kid and wore too-small skinny jeans. Blake was so pissed lol.

Anyway, we settled for this one which was mid but we chose it because Corey actually had the painting of the blue chair in his dining room.

I wasn’t too thrilled about this because I’m Ug City as usual but at least I’m super great at recreating my natural resting fug face with ease.

I think that Corey and I would have continued to ask for more retakes until we got it more accurate (my head is tilted the wrong way.!!!!) but Ryan was like LET US PLEASE PUT THIS TASK TO BED.

So, that was part of my Christmas recap. I’ll be back later to tell you about dinner & games OH BOY!

Dec 282022
 

Kang Daniel "First Parade" World Tour 2023: Cities And Ticket Details

I treated myself (fine, and Henry) to tickets to see Kang Daniel in Toronto in March! This is by far the cheapest Kpop concert I will have ever attended – less than $100 for BOTH tickets. It’s at a small theater, and I got us general admission tickets for the floor (standing room only) after confirming with Henry that he was OK with standing, god forbid.

Granted, we now have to cough up the bucks for a hotel, gas, food, etc. since it’s in Toronto, but we both genuinely love Toronto so much and are always talking about revisiting. We actually almost planned a spontaneous weekend trip last month because Chooch wanted to eat at Doomie’s, and I was like, “Yeah, I could also go for some Doomie’s,” and just when we had Henry half on board, we realized that DOOMIE’S CLOSED. It’s only in LA now :(

I am so stoked to see Kang Daniel, though!! He was my favorite in Wanna One and I was so relieved that he was able to embark on successful solo career about their disbandment. He is truly thriving and every single comeback he’s had has been a banger.  I think my favorite is still Upside Down, though! It’s always got me hitting replay.

Henry is more of a “I know his name and that’s all” type of guy, but every time I played him another song the other night, he would go, “Oh. Yeah, I know this one, too.”

He’s just GOOD. I don’t know what else to tell you. I will say though that the first time we were in Korea, his former group Wanna One seemed to be more popular there than even BTS. There was Wanna One stuff EVERYWHERE. They were even on posters for some kind of Cheetos fried chicken, and each individual member was featured on candy bars.

This one was my favorite Kang Daniel song for quite some time. Every time I hear it, I scream to Henry, “DOESN’T IT SOUND LIIKE THAT ONE SHUDDER TO THINK SONG??” and every single time, he looks at me like I’m nuts and yells, “NO.”

I hope I’m not jinxing anything by talking about this mths in advance like I did with our 2020 Euro Coaster trip that Covid ruined. I’m just so excited to be going to a Kpop concert in a city that I love so much – I’m going to be watching YouTube videos of Toronto Vegan stuff from now until March.

Dec 272022
 

2022 has not been a good reading year for me. My New Year’s Resolution I think is to start physically going to the library and browsing the shelves again like pre-Covid times. I need to stop relying on Booktube & Goodreads as much.

Anyway, here are my November reads, which feels like it happened so long ago.

  1. Just By Looking at Him – Ryan O’Connell

Just by Looking at Him

I really enjoyed this. The characters were bright and well-written, the dialogue was very trendy. I have been watching Uncoupled and would recommend this book to anyone who is enjoying that or any TV show similar to that. I gave it a 4. Apparently the guy who wrote it also writes for TV, and it felt like it (not in a negative way).

2. Such Sharp Teeth – Rachel Harrison

Such Sharp Teeth

OK RACHEL HARRISON. I had been dying for this book to come out ever since reading Cackle last year. That book was witch-centric, and this one is her foray into lycanthropia. (Is that a word? The red squiggles under it says otherwise, lol.) While I didn’t love this one as much as Cackle, it still had that Harrison-feel to it. The dialogue is so irreverent and suitable for Lorelai Gilmore to spit across a table at Luke’s Diner.

I loved it and can’t wait for her next one!

3. When I Was You – Minka Kent

When I Was You

I gave this 3 stars but it was a snooze, honestly. I barely remember it.

4 Hidden Pictures – Jason Rekulak

Hidden Pictures

Dude, this was pretty decent! Apparently, it won the Goodreads Award for best horror book of the year. I’m not sure I would go that far (though I didn’t really read very much popular horror this year) but I really devoured it. I love ghost stories that also involve kids, plus this one had a pretty crazy swerve toward the end that had me almost-screaming.

I had the physical book for this one and I’m glad I did because it includes copies of drawings made by the little boy in the book who may or may noy be possessed by a spirit.

I think the reason why I didn’t REALLY love it was because I couldn’t connect well with the main character, the young woman who becomes the live-in nanny for the aforementioned boy. I mean, I was still rooting for her, but all of the characters were just a bit too flat, in my opinion. The story was memorable, the people not so much. Still, I gave this 4 stars, and would recommend it probably just to casual horror fans or people looking for something moderately chilling.

5. White Is For Witching – Helen Oyeyemi

White Is for Witching

Helen Oyeyemi’s writing is not easy to digest. This is the second book of hers I’ve conquered now, and it really does feel like winning. This probably sounds like I’m leading up to an abysmal rating, but Oyeyemi might actually be one of my favorite authors. She is so WEIRD and scarily brilliant in the way she tells her stories. At one point in the book, I realized that there was a certain thing she was doing to convey the switching of POV between the main people in the book and THE FUCKING HOUSE. The house tell its own side of the story and it’s just…this is the most unique “haunted house” / “ghost story” I think I have ever read.  It took me over a week to read this and it’s only 200-some pages, because I have to read her pages slowly in order to understand everything and make sure I don’t miss a thing.

In other words, this is not a beach read. This is a “hunker down during a snowstorm with the phone in another room” fantastical experience.

I am so obsessed with Helen Oyeyemi’s brain.

6. The Shame – Makenna Goodman

The Shame

This book was so short yet felt like it was never going to end. I don’t even know what it was about. It was so boring.

7. The Honeys – Ryan La Sala

The Honeys

The first young adult book in A MINUTE that I actually liked. Plus, that cover! The majority of the book takes place at a summer camp where a teenage boy is trying to figure out what was going on with his sister before her untimely death. I needed something “light” to listen to while I was repainting the cat wall and while this ended up being pretty dark, it was definitely riveting and the audio book itself was very well produced – I loved that there were “camp” sounds that could be heard in the background.

Plus, can we talk about that cover? 4 out of 5. I’ll read more from this guy for sure.

8. Palm Beach Finland – Antti Tuomainen

Palm Beach Finland

I have been wanting to read some books with Scandinavian / Nordic / Finnish settings and this was the first one on my list that the library had available. It’s not that I thought it was BAD per se, but like….I had no idea what was going on for most of it, and it seemed entirely too long for what it was. The characters were quirky, the setting was exactly what the name of the book implies – some tacky Florida-themed beach resort in Finland that the property owner was desperate to have take off. It’s just one folly after another, with accidental murders left and right, a Dumb & Dumber petty criminal duo who cause hijinks to ensue every time they’re together. It wasn’t BAD but there were numerous times when I was like, “OK let’s speed this shit up.” I couldn’t read very many pages at a time without losing interest.

9. The Remaking – Clay McLeod Chapman

The Remaking

Big shrug. It was OK. It started off strong, I thought, but then I thought it was pretty cheesy. It 100% wasn’t very scary either.

I gave it a 2, apparently. Sounds about right.

10. Flipped – Wendy Dalrymple 

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I needed something short and light to wrap up November and I found this on Scribd. It was fine! Just what I wanted. Nothing deep. I gave it a 3. No strong opinion either way.

Bye!

Dec 262022
 

Another Christmas, here and gone. Amazing how fast it goes , right? I used to hate the holiday season so much but the older I get, the more I appreciate it. And it’s nice, although a bit bittersweet, now that Chooch is older because there is less pressure to crowd the “tree” with useless toys that he will likely never play with. Now he has more appreciation for what he gets and it’s just…nice.

This year, he has a recently-piqued interest for board games, but like the ones that are really involved and require a rapt attention and high intellect. So basically, games that are not for me. We got him a nice little starter collection, I think, and it was just very helpful having an actual THING to go with this year – the last several years, we were lost when it came to buying gifts for him.

Of course, I had fun making up random people that his gifts were from. One of the gift tags came with “From: Santa” always printed on it, so I added an ” ‘s Butt Doctor.”

I also got him a small window hanging of the flag of Tunisia which he inexplicably had become obsessed with and kept thinking that he saw it everywhere in Tennessee over thanksgiving to the point where it became a big joke.

Haha guess you had to be there.

Meanwhile, I had to laugh because Megan and Henry both got me gifts that catered to exact opposite ends of my musical spectrum! These were perfect presents. <3

Drew and Penelope got cat litter paper bags, stockings stuffed toys, and packages of treats! (Ignore the rug – it needed vacuumed bigly.)

Then Henry and I watched all the live performances at the annual Gayo Dajeon show in Korea, and my favorite was this one by NCT Dream:

This song is so special!!  I’ve mentioned this on here before, but NCT Dream was formed as the “under-20” subunit of NCT with the understanding that once a member reached age 19 or 20, they would “graduate” out of the group. So, it was never meant to be a “fixed unit,” you know? Mark (in the middle with light blue hair) was the first to graduate and it was INCREDIBLY SAD. He is also in NCT127, so it wasn’t like he was stranded without a group to fall back on, but it was still sad. Apparently, the fans flooded SM Entertainment with their concerns and dislike for this system, so SM was like, “OK FINE,” brought back Mark, and made NCT Dream a fixed unit. So, this song relates to that and I just love it even though it hurts my heart, too.

Then Chooch was pissed because a Stray Kids performance came on next and he didn’t know who they were, so I said, “Watch this” and I muted it and called Henry in.

“Henry, do you know who this is?” I asked.

He looked at the muted TV for .0003 seconds before saying, “Stray Kids.” No hesitation, no question.

“Wow, you’re so cool,” Chooch mumbled. Then went on to complain about how he doesn’t like any of the “new” kpop, just the older stuff. I know he’s mostly just annoyed that it’s become so popular in America. He’s worse than me!

Later in the afternoon, we went to Pink Box for our (newish) traditional Asian buns which we normally would eat while strolling around the local cemetery, but well, you know the weather.

We love Pink Box so so so much! This is so much better than when we would try to scrounge together an entire picnic to uncomfortably eat at the freezing cold (usually!) cemetery. Chooch really likes this new tradition because we no longer do a full-fledged photoshoot like we used to. Mostly because he’s TOO OLD and STUBBORN now.

Yo, it actually wasn’t THAT cold to just pop out of the car and take a quick family selfie but even this made the guys irritated. Wow, just wow, Merry Xmas.

Also: LOL at this being taken at the exact moment Chooch realized he chose his bun poorly. He wanted savory and got a curry green onion and immediately regretted it. Henry ended up trading with him and I took a bite too – it was perfectly fine, but I can see why he would have been a bit taken aback – it was very strong. I felt like it was more so the green onions than the curry though.

Fun fact: I bought this coat for Chooch from Uniqlo several years ago for Xmas and he was like, “HAHA NICE TRY I WILL NEVER WEAR THAT NOR ANY COAT SO DON’T BOTHER” so it’s mine now, I guess.

Wow, what a jump.

We went back home after this, and Henry continued slaving away in the kitchen. We weren’t having Xmas here, but he was still in charge of the ham (gag me), the pie, and the vegan beef Wellington that I selected to satisfy the vegetarian representatives at the table.

The rest of the evening was spent at Corey’s, which I will recap in a separate post because I’m lethargic AF today.

Dec 242022
 

Hello from our house on Xmas Eve! It’s been a pretty chill night. We had Henry’s friend Andrew and his wife Karen over earlier in the evening. Henry made his first ever shoofly pie and you know what? It was pretty good, I can’t lie. And I’m a big shoofly snob.

Traditional “shake every present” night, aka Xmas Eve. I do this thing where every gift is from a random person/celeb/inside joke, for example, one is from the guy who randomly walked into our house last month and then stayed for man hour.

Chooch just picked one up and said, “please tell Haechan that I don’t want anything from him.”

:(

After taking a family portrait with Trudy (originally typed this as Turdy, lol, sorry lady, Mama’s had some wine tonight), I remembered that my photobooth app thingie exists so I demanded that we do this as a family:

Chooch didn’t last long, and Henry did the bare minimum as usual. “This is more something that you and Corey should do together,” Henry mumbled, and you know? He’s not wrong, so I made sure to tuck the selfie stick into the gifts that we’re taking to Corey’s tomorrow. SO LOOK FOWARD TO THAT, I GUESS.

OK, I’m going to attempt to do some kpop cardio while intoxicated and wearing narwal slippers. I might be wishing you all a Merry Xmas from the hospital later, we’ll see.

Dec 232022
 

Baby’s First Xmas Party since 2019! I only invited a handful of friends because this was the first time in years having people over and I was lowkey kind of nervous about it?!

First punches since…well, maybe even BEFORE 2019 because that was the Xmas party where I had a hot chocolate bar instead of punch! It was fun gussying up the beverage buffet like old times,  that’s for sure.

Punch on the left is “Tree-Trimming Punch” and the one on the right is a kid-friendly apple cider party punch for Chooch and his friends Zakk and Haojie, who hung out on the backporch (it’s a 3 season room with a concrete floor, so…not very winter-friendly) after I went through great lengths to clean it during the week and had numerous convos with Henry afterward about putting the kerosene heater back there and then the day of the party, I brought it up again and he acted like this was the first he was hearing of it, which is tres typical of Gaslighter Guy, let me just say. So we had a fight of course and then he had to go to BUSY BEAVER at the last minute to buy kerosene which is a thing that could have happened much earlier in the week had he fucking HEARD ME.

And the whole ass time, he kept rubbing his lips together about how IT WASN’T EVEN NECESSARY, IT’S NOT GOING TO BE THAT COLD, TEENAGE BOYS DON’T CARE and I was having to astral project my fist to a meditation camp on a planet ruled by Korean unicorns  in an effort to keep it from smashing into Henry’s face instead.

We will…revisit this later. It will come up again, I promise.

I had to pick Chooch’s ass from work at 6 (the party started at 7!!!) so I was severely running behind on setting everything up. Because of this, not everything was put out, I didn’t make labels, the kitchen was in final form. I was a mess, as usual. Haojie was the first to arrive and he brought a platter of vegetable lo mein from his family’s restaurant (Tong Garden in Brookline, it’s fantastic!) which I thought was so sweet! Who knew teenagers could be thoughtful?! Well, I’m sure his parents had a lot to do with that.

Then Janna came around 7:05 after saying she was going to come EARLY because she had to “use [our] broiler,” whatever that meant. She made really delicious sweet potato rounds with melted ricotta cheese and craisins and WALNOOTS that she had to borrow from my squirrels, ugh. (Don’t worry – I opened a fresh bag for her, I didn’t take them from the squirrels’ food bowl outside, lol.) Also, it was hilarious when she asked Henry if he had any walnuts, because he frowned, sighed, and said, “Ask your friend.” When she asked me, I whipped open the doors of the beverage buffet to reveal the squirrels’ stash, lol.

Do I have walnuts. Ha!

The only thing I sort of made was a gingerbread dip, but that entailed me walking away as Henry was setting up all the ingredients for me and then never returning until it was time to “fold” in the Cool Whip. I thought I could handle that part so I wrenched the spatula from him.

“What are you doing?” he cried.

“I’m folding it,” I said, like, le duh.

“That’s not folding, that’s punching!” and then I was dismissed.

Also, in the back you can see the kimbap that Henry made which I asked him to stack in the shape of the Xmas tree and he clearly didn’t understand the assignment. It’s fine. At least they tasted good.

Megan’s “thing” is making super creative cheese balls for parties and I was so honored to have one of her creations on my party table! OMG it was so good but no one wanted to be the first one to dive in so she made me do it. I went straight for the head.

Holiday booze.

I wasn’t paying attention but this coffee table party spread was devoured and I never had a chance to replenish it because I was so caught up in telling terrible stories about myself and showing Picasso-esque nude portraits painted of me and Henry by death row pen pals.

Dude you guys, I saw a YouTube video for gochujang caramel cookies and knew Henry had to make them. They were fucking AMAZING. Maybe I’m the only one who thought that (although there was only one left) but I was obsessed and can’t wait for the next opportunity when “I” have to bake cookies for something because it will be these. If you don’t know what gochujang is because you’re not all about Korea like me, it’s a fermented spicy red pepper paste that is used in a LOT of Korean dishes. It has a very distinct and unique taste and I wasn’t sure how this was going to work, but it’s like a delicious, moist sugar cookie with ribbons of a sweet gochujang caramel swirled throughout. It doesn’t hit you until the end when the heat creeps in. I love these so much. I love gochujang in general though! I put heaping dollops of it on my bibimbap.

Now I want bibimbap.

Gochujang Girl. Also, not me wearing a shirt to my party that I only just bought that day.

There were only 14 people (including us and Chooch’s friends) there that night but it got REALLY LOUD at one point (Henry said it was mostly because of me and Corey). Blake, who lives next door, was out for part of the night and there was a babysitter over there, so I’m sure that was awesome for whoever it was, maybe Henry’s ex-wife LOLOL.

Wonka!

I spent the whole evening sitting on the church pew in the “new corner” of the living room and I have to say – it was more cozy than I expected and it was fun to get a new vantage point since I’m 99.9% of the time sitting on the couch.

Lori posing with Trudy.

Law Firm Squad!

This was the first time I REALLY got to talk to Wonka’s wife, Jess, and it was excellent. We need to have a couples night because literally the only time I ever see them is during one of my chaotic gatherings.

The vacant wheelchair tells me that this was around the time we lost Wonka and Corey to the back porch, where they decided to try and hang with the teens. It was around this time when I noticed Henry lighting the kerosene heater, so I got REALLY obnoxious at this point, yelling, “OH HO HO LOOK WHO’S LIGHTING THE KEROSENE HEATER EVEN THOUGH IT’S NOT GOING TO BE COLD OUT THERE!”

Henry just frowned deeper into his mustache, while Wonka said, “No, it’s REALLY cold back here!”

“I told you it wouldn’t be a problem until the adults went back there,” Henry mumbled. Apparently Corey was trying to turn on the heater himself and Henry had to intervene which is even funnier to me because Corey is just the boy version of me. We have very little life skills.

I loved that all of my friends inter-mingled with each other. I have always prided myself on having totally inclusive gatherings where everyone is introduced to each other and ends up with new friends. I have been to two of Megan’s parties so far and hers are the same – totally chill and not awkward which says a lot because my social skills bend just far enough backward to where I can create awkwardness in almost any sitch.

Although lately, I feel like I’m starting to get a bit of the old me back. I’m a Leo for Christ’s sake but only the people super close to me would know it. In the past, I used to present ALL LEO TRAITS to everyone I met. Loud, outgoing, maybe even a little bitchy…bring that Erin back, please.

Megan tried to leave at 11 and I held her hostage for another hour. It’s what I do.

When I was showing Megan and Eric my Cure wall upstairs, Eric said he felt like he was at the Mattress Factory and that was top tier compliment, honestly. I love the Mattress Factory and most of their exhibits are totally my aesthetic.

There was one point where Corey innocently asked, “Did you get a ring yet?” and I felt so triggered that I snapped, “WHAT? WHAT RING???”

“Oh my god,” he murmured, backing away from me slightly. Then he held out his phone and showed me the feed from his Ring security camera and I laughed, “OH! HAHA, THAT RING.”

I sincerely thought he meant an engagement ring, not that that’s something that has been on the forefront of my mind for 20+ years or anything.

:I

Megan and I “jabber” all day long at work, so it’s been nice to see her more out in the real world lately! Three times in a little over a week this month alone!

I billed this party as a “casual Xmas get-together” and I think it lived up to the description. It was super caj.

Until Chooch hijacked it and turned it into game night. Janna was visibly anguished when she saw Chooch pull out Scattergories. I am a real treat to play that one with! Jess escaped the madness and hung out with Henry, Ricky, and Dawn in the dining room for this portion of the night and I don’t blame her. It got so rowdy, especially with Corey’s bombastic laugh and me screaming at Janna lol.

P was the letter for one of the rounds and I answered PUNK ASS BITCH for “something in the room” and pointed emphatically at Janna when I screamed it. GOING BACK TO MY ROOTS!

Corey answered 9/11 for “Something made out of metal” and I still don’t understand it, but it felt very dark. He was taking this game to some sinister places, that’s for sure.

I don’t know what was going on here, but Chooch looked like a bookie and was acting totally manic.

SHUT UP, JANNA.

(LOL, j/k Janna!)

At some point, it had started snowing really bad?! I felt pretty awful about that.

Wonka wanted a picture of the three of us sitting on the couch like old times and I was happy to oblige! We used to have so much fun here back in the day, with the exception of a few bad seeds who used to hang around. It was really fun to reminisce about some of those random Internet people who I lured over here to hang out (THAT IS HOW I MET WONKA!!!!).

Then I wanted to do one where we were all “Doing Something,” which is how I pulled something in my side and then Jess said it’s actually possible to break a rib by doing stupid, minimal movements so then that sent my hypochondriac mind into a tailspin.

Jess & Wonka!

Dawn and Ricky! I love it when I get to hang out with them outside of the Castle but I didn’t get to talk to them much because Henry stole them!!! But, a bunch of are making plans to go to Castle Blood for the St. Patrick’s Day event that they’re having and I’m excited because I love going to the Castle but I especially love bringing fresh blood with me!

From the moment Corey set foot in the house, he homed in on the Feliz Navidad balloons and said, “I need my picture taken there before I leave.” I Think he said it like 4x!

I love this one because Taemin is part of it!

I would leave those balloons up forever if they’d stay a’puff.

Then Corey accidentally knocked over an ice cream cone planter I got at South of the Border and was so upset about it but it’s totally fine and can easily be glued back together – he is seriously obsessing over it though and even texted me about it again today!

I made those cookies. They’re just the Nestle Toll House ones though where the dough is pre-made and you just break it off and cook it haha. I added Xmas sprinkles though and everyone said they were delectable.

So there.

Anyway, the party came to end around 2am, and I can’t remember the last time I had a party that went on this late! It was so much fun, so great to bullshit with old friends and new friends, while drinking punch and pigging it out on party food.

Chooch is already planning the next party (a game night, I have passed the torch to him) so I’m looking forward to more chaos in the future!