May 312020
 

Happy Sunday. Here is a collection of things Chooch made last week which is exactly what the name of this blog post alludes.

1. kimchi bokkeumbap

Henry bought Chooch another one of those vegetarian meal kit things and this one included ingredients of “kimchi fried rice” but anyone who knows anything about Korean food knows that this is actually “bokkeumbap” and it’s something that is included at the end of meals in certain restaurants in Korea, where the server will come over and dump all the extra rice and kimchi into a pan at your table and stir that shit up right in front of you. Honestly—restaurants in Korea are next level.

Chooch was mad though because this one came with mushrooms that he had to scrape the “gills” and he hates mushrooms to begin with so it’s always a great sign when you can hear the chef in the kitchen gagging and dry-heaving. Mmmm!!

He picked all the mushrooms out of his own serving lol.

2. Fancy Moroccan Carrot Thing

Another one of the recipes that came in the meal kit was this WONDERFUL carrot thing. I love non-orange carrots so this was very appealing to me. Chooch felt like he cooked the rice too long but it had that wildly desirable crunch-layer to it so I gave it two thumbs up. I love crunchy/mildly-burnt rice! It’s the best part of bibimbap too!

Anyway, Chooch is much better at plating than Henry. It’s awesome to have two people cooking for me now haha.

3. Edible Drew Portrait

Chooch’s final assignment for his gifted art class was to make a mosaic or collage using shit around the house. I thought it would have been a good opportunity to do a portrait of his loving mother using (costume) jewels and flowers, but he ignored me and opted instead on his favorite cat Drew as the subject matter, and used dry goods from the kitchen. 

I mean, it’s technically edible but there is A LOT OF PEPPER, garlic powder, salt and onion powder mixed with cocoa and sprinkles, so…

Anyway, this isn’t actually due until next Friday so I was super impressed that he knocked it out in one sitting, an entire week in advance. Thank god. 

He took a picture so he could turn it in, and then promptly threw it away, lol. 

4. Cats uncomfortable

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t include this picture of him making our poor cat Penelope uncomfortable.

Welp, that’s all for today. Happy Sunday (did I already say that?). Go hug a tree and be nice to each other. 

May 302020
 

Look, I’ve already read over 20 books this month so instead of waiting for May to end and cramming the last two week’s of books into one post, we’re gonna just talk about all of Week Three’s books here now. I managed to squeeze in 6 of ’em. I’m sorry I have been reading so much/fast, but this specific readathon has been igniting something inside of me, you guys! I’m getting so much out of (most of) these books—ask Janna, I’m always texting her face off about new things I’ve learned. She puts up with the unsolicited info-splooges though, bless her.

OK, I think we left off at book #14 on my last check-in, so let’s gooooooo.

15. Love From A to Z – S.K. Ali

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I went into this expecting some fluffy YA romance but this contained some heavy-hitting shit about Islamaphobia and multiple sclerosis. Henry and I listed to the audio book of this during our weekend cemetery strolls and even he was like, “OK this book is alright” although he was probably hoping for some sappy, sugary recreation of Sweet Valley High that he probably stashed under his bed in THE SERVICE.

A huge plot point of this book revolves around the main character, Zayneb, getting suspended from school because her Islamaphobic teacher has it out for her. (He even purposely mispronounces her name and WHY DO ASSHOLES LIKE THAT KEEP GETTING TEACHING JOBS?!) Her mom ends up sending her to Doha to spend time with her aunt, because her suspension happens to be the week before spring break, so nearly the entire book takes place there in Doha and I was living for it. I don’t know much about that part of the world so it Henry and me doing YouTube travel vlog deep-dives. It also gave us SO MUCH to talk about—I had to pause the audio every time Zayneb experienced yet another form of discrimination because it was making me so angry and frustrated.

And Adam’s character was so sweet—I stan!

I liked this book because it wasn’t saccharine or unrealistic. The romance wasn’t even the central theme, so it didn’t take away from the more important messages. I have another SK Ali book on my TBR for June and I’m so excited to read it!

(Also, I cried really hard at the hard. I loved this book!)

16. The Night Tiger – Yangsze Choo

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OK, I can’t remember why I added this to my Asian Readathon TBR, if I saw it recommended somewhere or what, but I very nearly nixed it because it didn’t seem like something that I was going to like, judging by the synopsis (something about a boy trying to get a finger returned to his dead boss, what?), but hoo-boy, this was a solid five star read for me. The characters were so fleshed-out and colorful, I was straight-up rooting for them through the entire damn book.

I don’t want to give too much away, but you should just take my word for it that this is a magical read and go buy a copy, get it from Libby, etc. This is going end  up in my Top 5 of books I read this month, I think. I GIVE IT FIVE CHEF’S KISSES, YOU GUYS. FIVE OF THEM.

17. I Love You So Mochi – Sarah Kuhn

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I don’t know how this book wound up on my TBR list and I kind of wish I could go back in time and take it off. I think I thought it was more of an adult contemporary but no, it was definitely YA and pretty hollow at that. Basically, the main character gets in a fight with her mom because after 17 years she has realized that she doesn’t want to follow in her mom’s footsteps by being an artist, and then randomly her grandparents she has never met send her a plane ticket to spend spring break in Japan with them, and they’re like, “Hey teenage blood relative we have never met and just paid a grand to come visit, why don’t you just spend all day, every day, entertaining yourself on the streets of a country you’ve never been to” so she does and wow, immediately A Boy, who decides he is going to help her solve this MAJOR TASK of FINDING HER PASSION, never mind the fact that all she does is talk about clothing design, sketches outfits, turns thrifted clothes and candy wrappers into dresses for her friends, etc etc and then OMG Japanese grandma also makes dresses, but it’s not until the very end of the book that she, spoiler alert, realizes THAT SHE WANTS TO SCHOOL FOR FASHION DESIGN. This book just felt so empty to me; however I did cry at the end because anything with grandparents is like a good swift kick to the heart for me, so when she eventually said goodbye I was like JUST STAY THERE AND LIVE WITH THEM! GO CANDY-SHOPPING WITH GRANDFATHER AND FABRIC SHOPPING WITH GRANDMA! YOU STUPID DUMBO!

Yeah, I think I gave this a 3 on Goodreads but I would round down to a 2.5. It just wasn’t that interesting, yet here I am, having strong feelings nevertheless, lol.

18. Your House Will Pay – Steph Cha

Your House Will Pay

My phone is next to me, blowing up with news alerts about the Black Lives Matter protests across our country, like I even need a reminder that nothing has changed in America since the Rodney King beating of 1991, which is what this book is loosely based on. I always thought that I wasn’t a big fan of historical fiction, but this was an exception. It’s about the riots that took place in LA in 1992, after the asshole police officers were acquitted in the beating of King, and how the Korean American community got swept up in the violence which, being 12 years old at the time, I had never known. Of course I remember Rodney King and the riots, but I had no idea about the Korean connection, and after reading this book, I fell down the rabbit hole because I needed to know more. This is how I ended up watching a documentary on YouTube specifically detailing how Korean got entangled in the riots, partially because so many of the stores where the riots were taking place were Korean-owned, but mostly because there was an incident during this time where a Korean woman shot and killed a black teenage girl in her store because she thought she was stealing juice. And the media and police used this to change the narrative into a “black vs Korean” conflict. One of the quotes from a Korean woman in the documentary was something like, “I don’t hate black people. I hate the white people for starting this.” And then another person said, “Michin nara!” which means “Crazy country” in Korean. Sing it.

So this book rewrites the story of the teenager being killed by the store owner, and then follows each family to the present day. It’s a heavy book and it made me extremely angry and sad because, you know, nothing has changed.

19. Anna K – Jenny Lee

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Out of all the books on my TBR for this month, this was one of the ones I was most stoked for and I cheered when it finally became available on Libby. It’s a retelling of Anna Karenina which I never read, but I saw a tagline that said it’s like Gossip Girl crossed with Crazy Rich Asians, so I was all in.

I thought that it was only OK, and I was also kind of squirmy because I’m 41 and essentially reading about a bunch of teenagers fucking, so…that was great. Honestly, most of the characters were insufferable and I never really understood what was so great about Anna K? Yet somehow, I was there for the ride. And I’m glad I didn’t know much about Anna Karenina because it made the end of this book way more of a WHOA DIDN’T SEE THAT COMING for me. I think I would have enjoyed this a lot more if I was reading it on the beach….in Busan.

Also, I know Eleanore is a fictional character, but man I wanted her to die. Or at least get an STD.

20. Rebel Seoul – Axie Oh

Rebel Seoul (Rebel Seoul, #1)

Last but not least for Week #3 is Rebel Seoul which was like reading the script for a Korean sci-fi drama, holy shit. And the casting I did in my head was impeccable, I must say. I’m kind of a dunce when it comes to anything relating to war, so the plot kind of lost me at times. There were too many political organizations to keep up with and then on top of that, let’s throw a major crime syndicate into the mix…but there was a lot of action and descriptions of parts of Seoul that I have been to so it made my heart feel warm and whole. I didn’t expect to like this one as much as I did —and actually, I added it at the same time as Wicked Fox, which I assumed I would like more and it ended up being the opposite!

************

One and a half days left to finish three more books! BYEEEE.

May 282020
 

When the world finally finds a way to give the coronavirus the ass-beating it deserves and we’re able to go back to our regularly scheduled programming, I’m going to go hog-wild on road trips. I cannot tell you how much I miss rest stops, coleslaw from shitty small-town diners, bickering with Chooch or Henry or Chooch AND Henry in the car, LIVEBLOGGING!!!, and most importantly: finding terrible/awesome roadside attractions that add an extra four-to-eight hours to our travel time.

One of my favorite Roadside America finds was the Vent Museum, which is literally a house full of dummies in Kentucky. Good lord, did we have an experience there during the summer in 2014. WHY DON’T YOU READ ABOUT IT?

*****

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As soon as I saw a museum of dummies listed on Roadside America, my heart sang, “This is the place for us, Erin Rachelle Kelly!” I was ready to get lost in the bowels of a ventriloquist’s wet dream.

[Insert joke about why Henry would want to pay to see dummies when he’s with two of them for free every day.]

After killing an hour in Fort Mitchell, we rolled up to Vent Haven about ten minutes early. The curator was outside and waved to us, so we got out of the car and tentatively approached the property.

“Are you the one who just called today?” the curator asked, after introducing herself as Lisa. I said yes, that was me, and she told me that she almost never has an opening the day-of. “So this is almost like winning the lottery!” she laughed, and I could tell Henry was vehemently disagreeing to himself.

Right when I was panicking about having The Small Talk, another group arrived. This alleviated some of the pressure from us (because Henry damn well wasn’t going to be talking — he was still annoyed that this was pushing back our arrival home!).

We all stood around outside in the yard while Lisa gave us a brief rundown of the history of the museum, which was started out of the home of W.S. Berger when he started collecting dummies in the 50s and eventually his collection grew so large that he ran out of room in his house and had to build auxiliary shed-like buildings in his backyard. Thus, Vent Haven was born, the only museum in the world dedicated to the art of ventriloquism!

“When people see that it’s by appointment only, they think this is some pretentious museum, but I’m the ONLY EMPLOYEE!” she stressed. “I can’t give a tour if I’m at Kroger’s! I need to know when people are coming to my house,” she laughed. Because, you know, she actually lives there too. And it’s funny that she mentioned that because Henry totally groaned when I mentioned that I had to call ahead, because I’m sure he had visions of a stuffy exhibit full of stern-looking elderly people popping Werther’s Originals while an unamused curator monotoned facts around accusatory stares.

(Honestly, I always feel like they think I’m up to something!)

The more Lisa talked, the more I loved her. She was the antithesis of what you’d expect from a roadside tour guide: she was hilarious without being cheesy, informative without being boring, and her genuine enthusiasm for ventriloquism was contagious. Within minutes, Henry was smiling and laughing. The exact opposite of when we went on the Williamsburg ghost tour!

While waiting for the last group to arrive, she talked a bit about the psychological reasons why a lot of people are scared of dummies, or dolls of any sort.

“But really, even if they were all going to spring to life and come after you, why would you be afraid of something so small? They’re like the size of toddlers, just kick ’em, you know?” and then to Chooch she hurriedly explained, “I mean, I wouldn’t really kick a toddler…well, you know what I mean.”

I looked at Henry and mouthed, “I.LOVE.HER.”

At exactly 1:00, she interrupted herself and said, “Well, it’s 1. I’m not waiting for them. Let’s go inside and get started.”

ANOTHER REASON TO LOVE HER.

I can’t post the majority of the pictures I took, because of copyright reasons, but there were some photo ops that Lisa gave us permission to share on social media, so that’s what you’ll see here. So just imagine walking into a small building and being met with hundreds of dead, ogling eyes.

IT WAS EXHILARATING.

I’m not scared of this stuff at all. I mean, I collect clowns and have a mannequin that I use as a Christmas tree—I think I’m relatively immune. But it was admittedly slightly overwhelming at first—the collection is just crazy! Vent Haven is up to 900 now, but not all of them are displayed. Lisa actually had just received a literal carful of presidential dummies (from JFK to Dubya) earlier that week but hadn’t yet built a display for them.

That’s the other thing about Lisa: not only does she know her shit (one of the people in our group pointed to a random dummy and Lisa dove right in, regaling us with its colorful history), she is the sole creator of the displays and exhibits. “I just really love my job,” she said several times during the tour. It really showed.

And when I pointed out that one of the dolls reminded me of Lady Elaine from Mr. Rogers, Lisa looked at me strangely and said, “You’re not old enough to know Mr. Rogers! I grew up with Mr. Rogers!”

Kentucky, I love you. You make me feel young!

(And standing next to Henry helps, too.)

The last couple finally did arrive and as Lisa watched them get out of the car, she promised she wouldn’t shame them. “I’m an Army brat, can you tell? My dad made sure we were always on time.”

“My dad always made me late to everything when I was a kid, so now I make sure I’m always on time!” I blurted out, wanting nothing more than for Lisa to like me. Henry just rolled his eyes. He hates it when Suck Up Erin makes an appearance.

A little bit later, Henry got to steal my thunder when Lisa asked, “Does anyone recognize these famous ventriloquists?” She pointed to three separate b&w photos on the wall. All men in old b&w photos look the same to me so I gave up after 1.6 seconds.

“Hmmmm….Johnny Carson,” Henry said, pointing to the young guy in the middle.

“Yep!” Lisa said happily. “A lot of people didn’t know he was a ventriloquist.” She told us that puppets and dummies were recurring characters on The Tonight Show during his tenure, but when Leno took over, they ever appeared again because he hated ventriloquism.

As if I needed another reason to hate Leno.

Henry studied the pictures a little harder and, with a hint from Lisa, he was able to also guess Ted Knight. No one got the third one — DON KNOTTS. Too bad, so sad, Henry. You’re not that great.

(Honestly, though you should have seen how happy he was to know things.)

Then we got to go outside and play around with three demo dummies that Lisa keeps on hand. We were allowed to take pictures of them, and Lisa even took a picture of Chooch to put on Vent Haven’s Facebook page.

(He acted like a little teenaged shit about it, but that kid was secretly enthralled by this place. I know this because he was enrapt every time I looked at him and he never once asked to use my phone.)

 

The wife-portion of the couple who arrived late told Lisa that she had a dummy when she was a kid, but she’s not sure what her parents ended up doing with it.

“I haven’t seen it in years,” she said. “I have no idea where it went.”

“Maybe it’s here!” I said, clearly as a joke, but she very curtly said, “It’s not. I looked.”

OH OK. This is why I don’t talk to people!

After playing around with the dummies, Lisa took us into another building, where we learned about Harry Lester; the most successful vaudevillian of all time (not just in ventriloquy!) who was basically penniless when he died; and Paul Winchell, who was also the voice of Gargamel on The Smurfs and as soon as Lisa said that, I could picture his name in the opening credits! We talked about Edgar Bergan of course (he was really the only famous ventriloquist I had heard of going into this) and Shari Lewis, and then Henry got to go to the head of the class again when he knew that Wayland Flowers and Madame replaced Paul Lynde as the center square on Hollywood Squares.

 

Something he can control!

You guys, Vent Haven brought out a side of Henry that I never knew existed.

There was a section on Jeff Dunham here too. Apparently, he is very generous with the museum and donates a lot of his old props, etc. This is where Chooch’s interest was really piqued.  Lisa played a clip of one of Jeff’s Ahmed routines and Chooch, being right on that apathetic cusp of teenagedom, acted like he wasn’t impressed, but I could see his mind reeling.

There was one last building to visit, with even more dummies. It doubled as the gift shop and Henry’s good mood started to shift when he heard me tell Lisa that I wanted a magnet and her book and sure Chooch, you can get that Jeff Dunham hand-puppet set. Henry hates souvenirs.

Lisa was so flattered that I wanted to buy her book. But she was so entertaining and knowledgeable! There were numerous dummies throughout Vent Haven that had signs which said “I’m in the book!” so of course I had to buy it. I had to stop myself from gushing my way to a restraining order, but I just really wanted Lisa to know that I was obsessed with her in all of the good ways.

“You’re seriously the best tour guide we ever had,” I said all breathily as she wrote up an invoice for the admission fees and our souvenirs. I could sense Henry’s cringe all the way on the opposite side of the room. But Lisa took it well!

Chooch wants everyone to know that the 90 minutes we spent there got him into Jeff Dunham (he watched YouTube videos of his performances on Henry’s phone almost the whole car ride back to Pittsburgh) and he is trying to learn how to throw his voice now. I can’t tell you how many times this past week we’ve talked about the things we learned on that small, unassuming residential lane in Fort Mitchell, KY.

Oh, and he also wants everyone to know that Henry had a crush on ANGELICA, the main person from the second group who joined us and that he kept looking at her ass.

If you ever find yourself in the Louisville/Cincinnati area, I highly encourage you to call up Vent Haven and take a tour. Go not just for the dummies, but for Lisa’s biting humor and delightful stories. She’ll make a dummy-lover out of you!

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“That was fucking awesome, admit it, Henry,” I squealed as we drove away.

With just a hint of a smile, he quietly said, “Yeah. It was pretty awesome.” Ladies and gentlemen, I think Henry had a little bit of fun amongst dummies.

I mean, 90 minutes where all three of us were equally entertained and enjoying ourselves? Lisa was right: it really was like winning the lottery!

May 272020
 

Weekend bulletpoints? I DON’T MIND IF WE DO. 

  • Sugar Spell did another presale of pints last week, with the pick-up set for Saturday. The last time they did this, I came to the party too late (you snooze you lose etc etc) and the flavors I wanted were sold out. This time, I set an alert on my phone and then proceeded to sit in front of the computer, hitting refresh like I was waiting for kpop tickets to go on sale. It was stressful. But I got the flavs that I craves, oh god, I just said that for real in my head and I felt like the biggest asshole. Oh well. We all have our moments. Then when their site went live, I accidentally clicked one of my favorites in my favorites bar instead of the pint flavor I was eyeing up, so that was a whole panicky moment that resulted in Henry telling me to calm down, who’s the asshole now.  Anyway, when Henry went to pick them up on Saturday, he learned that I was the 10th order they received, whew. I love winning. Even when winning means beating a bunch of people but still having to pay $30 for ice cream. 
    • That Hydroblahblahblah flavor you see up there was a game time decision but has quickly become one of my new favorite Sugar Spell….flavs that I craves. 

  • We started a new audiobook on Saturday – a Japanese crime novel as previously mentioned in my Memorial Day recap. It was so good that we made a point of finishing it before the weekend was over. Here’s Henry maxin’ out on the porch, engrossed in his phone (he’s Reddit-obsessed) yet somehow also paying attention to the book and I know that he was actually listening to it because during the movie, he kept pointing out all the differences. Whatta nerd. 

  • Another thing I did on Saturday was start to vacuum but then I got instantly bored and quite deftly passed it over to Henry while it was still on and then I walked away. I could feel him staring at my back, but then he eventually finished the chore. If there’s one thing in life I excel at, it’s passing things off to other people. (Not STDs though.)
  • Chooch and I went for a walk around the town that afternoon and from his incessant stream of consciousness chit-chatter, I learned that he won’t eat pierogies that don’t look attractive. NOTED. 
  • Later that night, I heard commotion from down the street so I paused the TV. It sounded like a fight, but when I looked out the window, I saw that it was Tourette’s, doing his weekly patrol down Pioneer, shaking his fist at the houses and screaming obscenities. This time it was the worst one ever – he shouted “RAISE THE SWASTIKA.” What the actual fuck. That guy is nuts, like literally there is something wrong with him. 

  • On Sunday, Henry and I went to another cemetery to walk and listen to more of our book, but it was SO CROWDED because of Memorial Day and everyone was so old, it was terrible. It was also very hot. I don’t think anything memorable happened aside from the fact that someone was parked where Henry “always” parks (I mean, it’s where he parked twice, so I guess it’s his spot now) so he parked somewhere different and it really threw off the whole atmosphere for me, for some reason, I have no idea why.
    • NO WAIT SOMETHING DID HAPPEN. We saw a guy in a pickup truck with his business magnet on the side and he apparently goes to cemeteries and plants flowers for people – what a lucrative (is it?) job! Now I want Henry to start his own business. We’ll do it better. I mean, Henry will for sure do all the work but I’ll be the mouth telling him how to do things better.

  • After the cemetery, we (well, Henry – I stayed in the car because if it’s not necessary for us to both go into a store, I send him in solo) went to Pink Box and Sumi’s Bakery (two Asian bakeries that are literally across from each other) so that we could get our fill of red bean and whatever else Henry chose without consulting me. He was a good boy and picked me up a cream bun from Sumi’s because Korean cream bbang has my whole heart. Goddammit.
  • Sunday night, Chooch strode into the living room with a smug look on his face and said, “I took down those hanging lanterns in the back porch since Easter is way over, you’re welcome.” I fucking FLIPPED. Like, I know it was ridiculous to get THAT upset about it but I love my festive decor so I stormed back there and screamed, “OMG HE TOOK THEM ALL DOWN! HENRY! FIX IT!” like he fucking killed a cat or something irreparable and Henry once again dropped the calm down bomb and I was like  I HATE ALL OF YOU THIS IS THE WORST DAY OF  MY LIFE! THESE WEREN’T EASTER DECORATIONS, THEY WERE FOREVER DECORATIONS!” and then I ran away while yelling tear-slurred demands for them to fix it and from the living room, I heard Chooch mutter to Henry, “OK but they’re literally Easter eggs, though.”
    • Don’t worry, they’re hanging back up again. Whew.
  • Speaking of dumb decor, I told Henry that I want to redo the kitchen so it looks like a 1980s Trapper Keeper, and he mumbled, “Great. Can’t wait for that.” Sometimes I wonder what it’s like for him living in what’s essentially the sister shack to Pee Wee’s Playhouse.  I mean I guess we know now what it’s like for Chooch, after the #EasterLanternIncident. #neverforget

That’s all I got, friendos. 

May 262020
 

Well, I’m pretty sure I’ve had worse Memorial Days (like the notorious one in 2005 when my ex-bff came to visit and I locked myself in my room and she and Henry literally took off my bedroom door because they thought I was trying to OD on meds?! I WASN’T, for the record).

I mean, it would have been nice to be able to wild out in an Ozark watering hole (KIDDING, EW, NOT EVEN WHEN THERE IS NO COVID) but it turns out that we were still able to have a fine day without traveling.

I guess.

And I know that I complain about and ridicule that dumb local parade that slithers past my house every Memorial Day, but it was actually kind of sad that it was canceled this year. I guess theoretically the parade could have still happened, but who can trust hundreds of Yinzers to stand six feet apart from each other on the sidewalks?

Henry and I went to Jefferson Memorial for a walk earlier in the day and it was so freaking hot that we were both huffing and puffing on every hill and then there was this huge blast which made me scream WAS THAT A GUNSHOT as two more blasts fired out.

Henry paused, head tilted, SERVICE manual activated. “Yes. Seven guns. Three shots. Equals 21.” Then he noticed that I had contorted into a floating question mark next to him so he clarified, “it’s a military thing.”

OH OK.

When I told Chooch about this later, he died a little.

Apparently, there was a whole memorial thingie-thang happening in this cemetery, so that was great. I don’t think any of those super old farts were even wearing masks, so that was even greater. We made sure to take a different path because yeah, no thanks.

(Henry did have a little bit of a SERVICE boner though, I think he would really like for you to know that.)

Meanwhile, the book we chose was something that I thought was going to be fluffy YA but hoooooooo-boy, nope nope nope. I mean, yes, it was YA, but it was pretty heavy. Asian Readathon has been going SO WELL that I already can’t wait to do it again next year even though I basically followed none of the prompts and played by my own rules, which was essentially HOW MANY BOOKS BY ASIAN AUTHORS CAN I READ IN ONE MONTH, IT’S A RACE!

Back to Memorial Day. I was chatting on Kakao with my pal Kyoung who lives in South Korea and he was like “oh, what is Memorial Day, my Erin”* and I had to google it because I couldn’t remember, lol, please revoke my America card, I don’t want it anymore. This resulted in me asking Henry what the difference is between Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day and he started to answer me but then I didn’t care so I started playing the audiobook.

*(He calls me his Erin and I think that’s so adorable, I bet Henry does too—wait, I’ll ask him. BRB. OK, I’m back. He was doing the dishes and muttered, “Whatever.”)

Anyway, I decided that since we couldn’t really do anything fun on Memorial Day (and who am I kidding, it’s not like we typically get invited to any cookouts, pandemic or no pandemic, lol #friendlessinPittsburgh), then I wanted Henry to make some of my favorite cookout foods from when I was growing up, those Kelly Family Summer staples (which, if you know my family, sounds like some dysfunctional game of abuse that we maybe might have played, involved chasing each other with staplers while foaming at the mouth).

So, I’m not sure if this is something that was INVENTED in Pittsburgh, but I do know that it’s been a hometown favorite since I can remember, and that is the princess of all picnics, the Strawberry Pretzel Salad. My mom made it for every single cookout when I was growing up, and I always just thought it was one of those things that everyone made for cookouts, but apparently people not from Pittsburgh are like, “????” so if you’re reading this and you’re not from Pittsburgh, please let me know if you have ever heard of this. I mean, there’s a Betty Crocker recipe for it for god’s sake! And when Henry asked me to text my mom for her recipe, she was like, “I’m not home. Just go on Pinterest.”

WOW OK.

Anyway, Henry did an OK job.

But while we were chowing, he admitted that he HAD NEVER HEARD OF THIS UNTIL WE STARTED DATING AND HE WENT TO HIS FIRST EVER COOKOUT AT MY MOM’S HOUSE AND I AM SO FUCKING SHOOK, I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT WE HAVE BEEN FAKE-MARRIED FOR 18 (19?) YEARS AND I AM JUST LEARNING THIS. My friend Sandy said she feels sorry for childhood Henry. I agree. What a sad childhood.

He also made ambrosia, which was definitely not like my mom’s (she said she’ll look for her traditional recipe and give it to him for his birthday, lol) and Watergate salad, which actually isn’t something that we would generally have at any of my family gatherings, but I do like it in other non-Kelly Family Cookout contexts and haven’t had it in a very long time, so why not make the picnic side salads a full trifecta, you know what I’m saying?

Henry picked a good Watergate salad recipe because that shit was ON POINT. (I told him I never wanted to look at his ambrosia again, though). The Watergate salad also made me miss Eat n Park a little bit, which is actually open for take out during social distancing, but what I specifically miss is their salad bar even though EW I don’t really want to think about salad bars at a time like this, but they almost always have pistachio fluff in their “pudding/jello” section, and on very rare, special occasions, they up the ante and make it a full-blown Watergate.

Not the most attractive picture, but that’s what you get when it’s plated by Henry’s big bumbling blue-collar meat-fists. It’s important to note that this salad is probably the most “Yinzer” thing about me. Honestly. I fail pretty much every other Yinzer test out there.

So yeah, lots of sugar for dinner! But…also lots of fruit?

Later that night, Henry and I watched a Chinese adaption of this really great Japanese crime novel we “read” together over the weekend and Chooch was like, “I’M NOT WATCHING THIS” because he’s jealous that Henry and I have our weird/creepy audiobook couple’s club now. Haha.

May 242020
 

It’s weird not being able to do anything this Memorial Day (well, safely, anyway – I’ve seen all the gross viral videos of RULL ‘MURIKUNS celebrating their RIGHT TO MASS CONVENE WITHOUT MASKS AND ANY REGARD TO SOCIAL DISTANCING – yeah, your God will keep you safe. Good luck with that). But you know, that’s why I write about literally everything my family does, so that I can fondly revisit things like, oh I dunno, past Memorial Days and laugh at our lameness and remind myself that we can still make a memory tomorrow, just safely away from people and probably indoors lol. Henry is currently in the kitchen trying to recreate some of the Kelly Family cookout dessert / side dish staples for us to pig out on tomorrow.

And who knows, maybe next year, we’ll be able to do something dumb again like the time we dragged Janna with us to a petting zoo and then ate at a trucker restaurant.

But for now, we will continue to be safe without being whiny entitled assholes!

PLEASE ENJOY THE MEMORY!

****

Let’s Go to the Petting Zoo: Memorial Day 2015

After the dinky Memorial Day parade last Monday, Janna came over and we all took a joyful trip out to Living Treasures in Donegal. Janna strode through my front door with the remnants of her lunch, which included A DRINK.

“WHAT’S IN THAT?” I demanded to know.

“Iced tea,” she answered in that indignant tone she’s been getting with me all of a sudden.

“WELL, YOU CAN’T TAKE THAT IN MY CAR,” I said calmly, I have no idea what would give you any idea that I screamed it.

So then a few minutes later, we were all ready to go after Henry yelled at us repeatedly because that’s all he does these days is yell yell yell. As I was putting on my seat   belt, I noticed that Janna was in the backseat with that damn drink!!

THAT BITCH!

“JANNA WHAT DID I TELL YOU ABOUT THAT DRINK!?” I asked without the slightest hint of hysterics.

“It’s nearly empty!” she whined, and then she SHOOK IT and droplet of ICED TEA EJACULATED ONTO THE BACKS OF MY CAR SEATS!

And here we all thought CHOOCH would be the first to spill!

IMG_4826.JPG

We brought Spoon with us for #spoonselfies. Henry was #thrilled. My #LenoChin is out in full force. #hashtag

So, Living Treasures is better than a petting farm but not as great as a zoo. And it always seems like a WOW SO GREAT idea to go until I remember how far of a drive it is (like 90 minutes or something equally as absurd which is basically anything more than 20 minutes). They have goats and sheep and ducks but also VARIOUS MONKEYS and LIONS and OTHER THINGS. Other things like BEARS! So it’s pretty cool, but I always get so sad seeing those guys behind glass.

I’m one of those bleeding heart PETA motherfuckers.

We had some “just pay half” coupon that was good for four people so Janna was our charity case for the day. I wanted to make her pay us back, but Henry was like, “Erin.”

Once Janna passed the Robitussin pat-down, we were allowed to enter the zoo-thing.

Henry bought Chooch a big bag of feed, and 99% of it wound up on the ground each time he would attempt to feed a thing. Their snouts would get within three feet and Chooch would scream, drop the feed, and pull away his hand. Henry was like YOU’RE NOT DOING IT RIGHT!

But I kind of had to get behind Chooch on this one because I am TERRIFIED of feeding animals at petting zoos ever since that time a camel deep-throated my hand back in 2007.

YOU DON’T FOOL ME.

There’s a reason Chooch has been calling camels “cannibals” since he was a baby, you guys. That’s not just a cute mispronunciation!

Here’s Chooch, still in a good mood.

Here’s Chooch approximately 5 minutes later, decidedly NOT in a good mood anymore. That kid switches as fast as I do and it’s kind of remarkable. (Or annoying. That too.)

Chooch and Janna had an argument about the peacock and now I can’t remember what it was but HE SURE TOLD HER. He gets so sassy when he’s overheated and tired.

OK I just asked Chooch, whose memory is much more plump and nubile than mine, and he said it was because we were petting a kangaroo, and he commented that it was so soft. Then Janna petted it and said it was soft, so Chooch flipped out and yelled, “I KNOW, JANNA. I ALREADY SAID THAT.” So then Janna cried, “I was just AGREEING with you, CHOOCH!” We are like a traveling troupe of hostile situations.

I have no idea where he gets this.

(The peacock keeps coming to mind because I think <em>I </em>had an argument with Chooch over the peacock. We all had our turn with Chooch’s temper that day.)

Another one of these little fuckers bit my side while I was taking this picture.

OMG IT’S DOGE! MOMMY TAKE MY PICTURE WITH DOGE! WHAT DOES DOGE EAT?!

Babies.

There was a white buffalo there and as we all started to walk away after the requisite 19 seconds of visually admiring the [insert living treasure], I noticed that Henry was hanging back.

“Wow, Henry is really into the buffalo,” I thought to myself. Then I noticed that he was TAKING A PICTURE OF IT and seriously, how often does Henry care enough about turning a moment into a keepsake? Like, rarely ever. But then I put two and two together because I’m great at basic mathematics and I realized that it was a Ted Nugent reference and he was posting it on Instagram for Alyson because she loves to pump him for info regarding The One Time he went to see Ted Nugent in THE NINTEEN EIGHTIES and allegedly knocked over some broad in a wheelchair like a hungry llama bum-rushing the Living Treasures zookeeper.

The only way to exit Living Treasures is through the gift shop. Well played&lt; LivTreas. Janna had to go to the bathroom of course and asked us where it was so I pointed at some random, clearly off-limits staircase and she was like, “OK thanks” and started to walk up them but then Chooch and I started laughing so she figured out that it was A TRAP. Then Henry played the Nice Guy card and showed her where the bathroom really was while Chooch threw a myriad of fits because we wouldn’t buy him all the stupid educational shit that he wanted. God! Go learn with your own money!

I think the girls behind the counter thought we were shoplifting because the three of us just kind of roamed around aimlessly while waiting for Janna and I don’t know how to “look casual.” I always accidentally look like I’m suffering through meth ticks, and I repetitively pull my phone out of my purse and then put it back, pull it out, put it back, TRY TO LOOK CASUAL, whistle, ACCIDENTAL EYE CONTACT WITH CASHIER, kick imaginary rocks, FURTIVE GLANCES ALL OVER THE FUCKING PLACE. I’m a shop owner’s nightmare.

“LET’S WAIT FOR HER OUTSIDE,” I thought I said in a normal voice but it sounded like it came out of a tin can, so who knows.

Much sad. Very pout.

Finally, Janna emerged from the gift shop, freshly ‘Tussed and carrying a cold bottle of water. Chooch flipped out because why was she able to buy water but we wouldn’t buy him water? IT’S  BECAUSE WE ARE TRYING TO KILL HIM SLOWLY! Henry calmly explained that it was because we were going to stop and get lunch and then as we walked across the parking lot, Chooch very seriously asked if we were almost home.

BOY, YOU DRUNK BOY. YOU DRUNK. BOY.

DRUNK.

 

Luckily for Chooch, we only drove a few miles down the road before stopping at Tall Cedars which I knew immediately was The One. I know it’s kind of out-of-character, since I was born choking on a silver spoon, but I love me some trashy roadside food-slingers. And this was just that. Bar on one side, “dining room” on the other, parking lot full of pick-up trucks.

“I am going to eat the FUCK out of a grilled cheese,” I said, fists pumped.

No one got the daily special (I know you’re shocked that I didn’t eat that shit up) but I couldn’t wait to ask about the deserts! Surprisingly, “potato/potatoes” is spelled correctly.

 

Chooch was still in a sour mood when we got there, especially because he wanted to sit by me but Henry and Janna were like, “Ew we don’t want to sit together” so Henry made Chooch move and he was like WHY CAN’T YOU JUST LET ME BE MY OWN PERSON.

Yeah Henry. Stop making it all about you!

Oh my god, it took our food so long to get there and I think it’s because HENRY stopped our waitress as she was running herself ragged to and fro the kitchen so that he could add on an order of wings, and I’m not lying when I say that it really changed the tone. She went from calling us all hon and basically doting on us to thinking we were entitle CITY FOLK so thanks a lot Henry. Acting like he deserves wings because it’s Memorial Day or something.

Chooch’s Holy Burger.

Actually not pouting, just making faces.

Chooch’s hair was all greasy from the profuse sweating he had been doing all day, so it was super pliable. Every time he would rub his hands through it (which he does often since he is so stressed), he came out the other end looking like a different 1980s New Wave singer every time. It was fantastically entertaining. And we needed all the entertaining we could get since it was taking SO LONG for our basic grilled cheese and burgers to be served.

Janna was fighting with her roommate and that seemed to cheer up Chooch because he loves conflict.

And then I got blueberry pie, Janna got lemon meringue (because that’s what Chooch told her to get), and Chooch got red velvet cake. Henry got NOTHING because he had already treated himself for the month with his AUXILIARY WING ORDER. Hope it was worth it, Memorial Day Hank.

Then it was time to pay and Henry told Janna to just give him $4 for her part of the check, which he was going to use for the tip, but then she only gave him THREE DOLLARS because the ‘Tussin is rotting her brain, you guys.

On the way home, we drove past this junk yard which I remembered from the very first time Henry and I went to Living Treasures in 2004 (a/k/a That Time I Made People Match Up Poop With The Animal It Came From* on LiveJournal) and he voluntarily told me that he has a fear of FALLING FROM THE SKY ON TO METAL.

I WILL NEVER FORGET THAT, EVER. Now he barely ever offers up self-fact nuggets and I can’t imagine why.

Somewhere along the way, the cherry cider episode happened, too.

And that was our Memorial Day. It was OK. Better than being at work, I guess.

*(I was even more obnoxious back then, if you can believe it. The winner of that contest (my pal Kevin!) got a t-shirt with my face on it, you guys. I’m an asshole.)

May 232020
 

Henry and I have a pandemic tradition where we go for walks in cemeteries every weekend while listening to an audio book together, which I am sure I already mentioned but everything just melts together lately like a clock in a Dali painting so who can be sure what I divulge anymore.

Last weekend, we went to this one cemetery in Greenfield called Calvary Cemetery, which I hadn’t been to since Chooch was a baby, like a fresh-ass BABY baby, and I just remember pushing him in his stroller and he was screaming his face off and I was probably wading through post-partum depression waters, if we’re being frank here, and I was like OMG SHUT UP I HATE YOU UGHHHHH and then never went back to that cemetery. I told Henry this cute little anecdote last weekend and he just stared at me. But look at our well-adjusted 14-year-old! I did ok! We moved past it!

Prior to that, there was this other time we went there, pre-Chooch. I vaguely remember it being winter because I tried to sled down a hill without a sled, and I was totally manic but not in the fun way, and then we came home and I tried to create a recipe by swirling peanut butter into scrambled eggs, and I think I got sick so maybe that’s why I never went back to that cemetery in all of these years? Bad associations?

Well, this time it was so lovely (and I honestly recognized NO PARTS of it) that we went both Saturday and Sunday! Usually we go to different ones but I was like, “Nah dude, let’s go back to the same one.” Maybe it was because I was really vibing with the book we were listening to (Love From A to Z), but wow, I was in a great mood on both days, the weather was beautiful, there were other people around but not enough to be alarmed, and it was just a really peaceful place.

I’m so excited that Henry has been so agreeable about listening to audio books together. I let him check out my Libby shelf during the week so he can choose one to start for the upcoming weekend, and it’s pretty adorable. He didn’t pick “Love From A to Z” though – I did because it was about to expire and this definitely isn’t something he would have chosen because it’s YA romance but also fairly heavy-hitting with Islamophobic themes.

Anyway, the majority of this book takes place in Doha so then we started watching Doha travel videos and OMG when will we ever be able to travel again. Sorry, sometimes I just have to get my meaningless complaints out of my system and let my perspective regenerate.

I had to pause the audio book numerous times while we were casually strolling around the cemetery because I was getting so angry about the way the Muslim character was treated and I kept screaming at Henry, “DOESN’T THIS PISS YOU OFF??” and he just mumbled something that sounded curiously like, “I’m a white privileged male.”

Honestly though, I have really been looking forward to these weekends because they are the only times I get out of the house (aside from casual walks around the neighborhood during the week) and it’s fun pretending like Henry and I are in a book club together even though he doesn’t usually bring much to the table opinion-wise…

Chooch won’t come with us because he doesn’t want to listen to books with his lame parents, fair enough lol.

This was a good book, you guys. I thought it was going to be a fluffy YA romance but nope, there’s substance here! I’ll include it in the next bunch of books I review for Asian Readathon, don’t you worry!

I don’t think anything else ground-breaking happened last weekend, except that I remembered the name of this one Japanese horror movie that Henry and I watched back in…2005?? And for years, the only thing I could remember was that there was something with a cello player and also there was a scene where a little girl was forced to watch her parents have sex and I thought it was from a locked closet, so I googled, “asian horror cello parents make girl watch them have sex” or something and I found it! It was called Strange Circus which you would think would ring a bell in my brain but it doesn’t, and also, the girl was forced to watch the parents from inside a cello case, so there’s the cello connection! I’m so happy I finally remembered!

But also I’m very sad because I know for sure that we rented this back then from Incredibly Strange Video still existed and Henry and I used to walk there because it was like 10 minutes away and we were bros with the owner who would automatically recommend new horror he obtained to us and that is how I watched some of the best foreign horror and bizarre student horror films in the early 2000s and sure everything is at our fingertips now thanks to the internet and hundreds of streaming services, but nothing can beat that feeling of walking into a small independent video store and bullshitting with the long-haired man behind the counter, renting shit that sometimes didn’t even have a cover.

Goddammit, I miss that. :(

 

May 222020
 

This week’s list is here for you with no intro because who cares.

  1. Another quarantine work week in the books.

This week was fine but hectic. I had so many check-in calls this week (yesterday especially) that Chooch was like, “Honestly, how are you supposed to do your actual work?” and I was like, “One day when you’re the big boss of some nerdy tech company, remember that and be good to your minions.” I don’t know why I dislike these calls so much, I guess because I feel pressure to act like I’m all fine and dandy and not bursting out into tears over a commercial that I remembered from 1999. You know how it is. However, yesterday in my video call, I discovered that I could use my own pictures as backgrounds so I got to talk to one of my groups from Bukchon Hanok Village in Seoul. That was fun. But then my cat Drew was like, “NOW THEY CANNOT SEE ME SKULKING AROUND IN THE BACKGROUND” so I went back to my typical background of “Cluttered House in Brookline.”

(Meanwhile, Chooch was just on a call with one of his classes and he goes, “I already know all of this. I’m leaving.” AND HE LEFT THE CALL! JUST LIKE THAT! He didn’t even say bye! Motion to be more like Chooch? Aye!)

We had one department-wide call as well and the director ended the call with something like, “I miss you guys and hope to see you again” which made me burst into tears. I mean, I don’t mind working from home, don’t get me wrong, and I for sure don’t miss the trolley, but I do miss things about the office, like saying hi to some people and rolling my eyes at others  (don’t worry, it’s to their faces, so it’s not a secret). I miss my jack o’ lantern of weird snacks. I miss Sue bringing in Fig Bars and personally delivering a blueberry one to me because she knows they’re my favorites. I miss all the cute stuff on my desk (OMG did I turn off my marquee?!!? Oh well, batteries are dead if not lol).  I miss my lunch break walks even though today it’s raining and kind of warm which means the stench of piss would be in full effect downtown. I miss walking over to my old side of the floor to tell Glenn and Todd dumb stories about my neighborhood (it’s not the same when I have to email them!).

2. Produce Attack

Ever since the whole situation with Slut Life started and Henry gave HNC my phone number so that we could corroborate the facts on how Slut Life almost ran me over,  I will get occasional texts from him, always neighborhood-related. Lately, they have been things like, “I have some baked goods from La Gourmandine, do you want them?” and like, yes, yes, I do. But since I said yes once, it opened the floodgates to a whole new game of grocery sharing. The next day, he texted: “I have some extra romaine lettuce and celery – do you want it?” and no, I don’t, because I hate celery and romaine lettuce is my least favorite salad leaf, but I didn’t have the heart to say no, so he brought it over and did a socially-distanced hand-off with Henry on the porch (wow, that sounds erotic yet sad).

But then he called me earlier this week and I missed the call so he left a voicemail that said to call him, which is the worst kind of voicemail ever because OMG did he find my blog?? So I called him back and he explained that pre-corona, he used to volunteer with the food bank and got to know some lady there, and now she was across the street in the church parking lot, handing out extra food to anyone who needed it and I didn’t want to say no, so I just thanked him and said I would try to make it over there, but hello, I was working. So I didn’t drop everything and run over there, you can understand, especially when we have food and I didn’t want to, you know, take food away from people who might really need it. So I didn’t go out there, but then Chooch, who was in the front yard making a sculpture out of nature for his sculpture class, came in and said, “Chris wants you to call him.” THE FUCK. So I called him and he was like, “Yeah if you’re going to go over there to get food, you better do it now because she’s getting ready to leave” and I was like, “Oh that’s OK, I’ll catch her another time, I’m good for now” so then he texted me a bit later and said that he got too much stuff for her and would I like some apples and two peppers and potatoes?

UGH.

Henry thinks this is wonderfully hilarious and that I deserve it after all the years I’ve hassled him with the fake HNC bromance.

So he brought he produce over and then an hour later said, “Hey I got this blueberry crumble cake but only wanted a pc*, do you guys want the rest?” and then sent me a picture of it.

AND THUMBPRINT COOKIES!

AND THEN SOME TYPE OF BUNS WITH PEPPER IN IT!

I mean, I do appreciate the baked goods, though. It’s the neighborly contact that I’m not down with. I hate when people call me! It makes me feel very attacked.

3. A TAEMIN MUKBANG*!

In case you don’t know, I have a fetish where I love to watch G-Dragon and Taemin eat. I will for real sit on my couch and watch video after video on YouTube of eating compilations. Drinking, too! The other day, Taemin gifted his fans with a video of him eating at a restaurant and it made me squeal like a little fucking middle school bitch, you guys. Ugh, his joy of eating is so contagious – how can you not sit here and smile like a lunatic while watching him shovel it in?! (Meanwhile, Henry can eat the smallest, softest morsel of food in my presence and I will shriek, “OMG YOU ARE SO LOUD! UGH, YOUR MOUTH-SOUNDS ARE DISGUSTING!! DO YOU WANT TO DIE?!!?”)

***In Korea, there is this phenomenon where people will post videos/livestreams of themselves eating tremendous amounts of food, usually with the microphone clipped to their collar so you can really hear the chewing. It’s call “mukbang” which literally means “eat room.” Some of these people make millions of dollars off it! My favorite mukbang channel is this small girl who just absolutely binges, it’s amazing.

I hate this picture so much.

4. BANANA SHIRT!

I bought this banana shirt. Some of the bananas have boobs. I’ll probably still wear this to work though, if we ever get to go back.

5. Row that fucking boat out of my head

For the past week, I have QUITE INEXPLICABLY had “Michael Row Your Boat Ashore” stuck in my head. Sometimes I will let the “hallelujah” part slip out of my mouth and it’s very concerning.

The first time I heard this song was when we had to sing it in kindergarten. For a really long time, I thought the song was about my classmate Mike S.,  because he was the only Michael I knew at the time so clearly he was the only Michael in the whole world and for fuck’s sake, row that damn boat so we can stop singing this song, Mike!

My mind’s jukebox also has “It’s a Small World” and “Gloria” by Laura Branigan queued up to play at a moment’s notice, so be jealous you’re not in my head, guys.

****

Well, that’s all I feel like writing about on the spot. I’ll sign off now with a rare of my cats in the same spot:

 

 

May 202020
 

Remember a few years ago when I suddenly discovered that I loved plants and then before you knew it, my house was full of them and they all had names like Bambi Sickafoose, Suzy Banyon (props to you if you know where that reference) and Ted NUDEgent and my favorite past time was going to Goodwill in search of mugs and things that could be turned into plant vessels? And then we got Drew and Penelope and one by one all of my plants ended up on the floor, in a heap of dirt and ceramic shards? And then eventually I just gave up and stopped buying plants?

Well, I decided that I needed to obsess over something during Pandemic Times, aside from books and Korea and exercise, so I’m back in the plant game, I guess. Henry bought me some at Lowe’s over the weekend and then I sat on the porch steps, dictating to him which pots to plant each baby in.

Henry’s grandkids who live next door, Calvin and Lily, were standing at their window while this was going on so I had fun showing them each plant as it was potted, and they oohed and aaahed and then told me to show their cat, Ham, too, who looked way less enthused than they did.

Social distancing sucks, but at least we can talk to them through the window I guess? So they don’t forget us?

I don’t think I will name these ones because I get too sad when they die. I do still have some that survived my first plant-pregnancy (??) from 2015, if you can believe that, like the aforementioned Ted NUDEgent, a jade plant that actually grew so much that I had to split him up into three pots, that growing bastard.

Oh shit, if you click on that link up there, the cactus in the picture under Ted NUDEgent is also still alive! He lives in Chooch’s room, and he has split into four thingies and kind of is slumped over but I don’t want to touch him so I don’t know how to fix him??


I always have to have something to obsess over. I have a very obsessive personality. I AM OBSESSION.

I love these ones so much!! I have one that Henry and Chooch got me for Mother’s Day a few years ago that is still alive. SEE NEXT PICTURE.

These guys (Lithops) are so interesting because they look like they’re about to die but really they’re just splitting apart for a new growth to come out, so fucking sick. They’re pretty low maintenance too.

Hanging plants never do well for me but we’re giving it a go again because I like having hanging plants in my room, I promise to try hard to keep it alive.

Here you can see the OG Ted NUDEgent, second on the left, and his two…ribs (?) over on the right. Also, that first one is something called a goldfish plant which I have had for several years and I thought it was dying for a while but then all of a sudden (KAPCHUGGI) it was like, “SIKE, MOTHERFUCKER” and then changed colors. So that was cool. I got it from some cute nursery that had a wild selection of something called fairy plants and for a split second I was like, “Hey let’s go to—-oh, never mind” because I’m sure it’s not open and even if it is, I’m still not up to going to into stores and things of that nature because I really don’t have a pressing need to. Henry is the sole shopper in our household during quarantine, even though our area has been downgraded to level “yellow.” I will just continue to stay put until further notice.

(Even though Target has been calling my name for months. I miss you, baby. We’ll see each other again, eventually.)

Anyway, I used to be really into photographing my plants so maybe I will start doing that again too, because HOBBIES.

Editor’s Note: As I was getting ready to publish this, I was scrolling through the categories because I could have sworn I had one for “plants” but surprisingly I don’t. Although I just found out that I have one for POLENTA?! Literally at one time in my life, I assumed that I was going to write about polenta enough to actually need to make a category for it. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED, PAST ERIN. 

Anyway, I have a “plant” category now. Phew. Now all of my plant posts can live together harmoniously.

****

Bonus plant reading:

Plantsapalooza

May 192020
 

On Sunday, I decided to finally pay attention to the Hipstamatic notifications I get and decided to go on a photo walk around Brookline in order to collect stamps for my stupid Hipstamatic “passport” thingie because it was a nice day, I needed steps, there was nothing else to do. I dragged Chooch out of the house with me.

“What are you doing?” he asked me in that grating teenage tone that I FUCKING HATE SO MUCH, I am trying to just be happy that he still talks to me at least but MOTHER OF GOD he gets under my skin sometimes. After I explained my mission to him, he shrugged and said, “I guess I’ll do it too then” and downloaded Hipstamatic so then what I had intended to be a nice, leisurely walk turned into COMPETITION TIME.

The two of us just can’t do anything together without someone needing to win. It’s annoying, since I can’t lose. 

Anyway, here are some photos from around town. Yes, we wore masks. 

Someone’s yard. 

Another someone’s yard. 

Chooch’s name, memorialized in a dirty sidewalk. He’s still so smug about this. 

Someone was hit by a car here. For a long time, there was a (full) bottle of chocolate milk sitting there with all the stuffed animals. 

The windows of Jo’s Salon still has Easter stuff in it. It’s been closed since mid-March when everything went on lockdown, but I guess they still decorated for Easter. How nice of them. 

Chooch got this shot first and then accused me of trying to be like him after I took one too. UGH. 

Every time I walk past this diner, their handwritten signs make me die a little inside. I want to make better ones for them in the worst way. (I love making signs. When I worked at the shitty meat place for 4 years, making signs for the display cases was the only thing I truly enjoyed doing. I mean, it was hard to find enjoyable things amidst all of the sexual harassment, racism, misogyny, and psychological warfare that was served up there all day, just like this diner’s breakfast.)

…waiting for it.

I’m still not sure what this place is but it’s much better than that horrid BABE CAVE glamour shots place that used to be there. 

Ah, the good ol’ Boulevard. I’ll be happy when things go back to normal (if they do?) and we can walk to Scoops for ice cream, which I will never take for granted again, like how Blake and Haley invited us to go with them on this one nice day in early March, before everything shut down, and I said NO because I was trying to watch what I was eating that weekend and figured I could “just go another time.” 

LE SIGH. 

I dunno, it seemed cool at the time and Chooch took a picture of the house next to it which was nicer but god forbid I should copy him again. 

I still haven’t watched this show. Should I? Will it upset me? Because I can’t watch animal stuff. 

This part of the boulevard sucks because every other storefront is vacant. But there is some sandwich shop that is supposedly going to open at some point, I hope they still do. I always peek in the window when I walk by and it looks cute. I hope they have grilled cheese. 

REFLECTIONS. 

It’s the Brookline Monument “Cannon,” you guys. 

I always liked this church door. 

This is on the window of some newish “club”/Mexican restaurant that opened last year but I noticed that there isn’t a NO KNIVES sign which I guess is how a stabbing was able to happen there a few months ago. (I don’t think anyone died.)

I had to take a picture of this because it’s on the window of one of the trashiest bars in the area and I guess I just figured if any anti-maskers wanted someplace welcoming and mask-free to loaf, it would be here. But wow, I was wrong! 

(This is also the place were the infamous “photo incident” happened with Christina and me, which I still love to talk about except that everyone says, “Yeah, you told me that one before” so maybe I should tell Henry’s grandkids, or create a new imaginary friend.)

You can see my vintage Cure t-shirt in the reflection!

This place has been here forever, and probably those same bottles too. 

This is a block away from my house and the guy who lives here IS SO SWEET AND GRANDFATHERLY and has what I think is a Polish accent and one time he asked for Chooch’s and my opinion when he was installing spotlights outside of his house. I like it when people ask me for my expert advice. It makes me feel like…a real life person. 

And this concludes: Photo Walk with Erin and Chooch. God only knows what other treasures I’ll pull out of my sleeves for you this week. Wow. 

May 182020
 

I feel like I take way more pictures of Drew than Penelope but that’s honestly just because Drew is more in-your-face than Penelope, who spends most of the day sleeping in her hidden nooks and secret hides-holes. But I guess because it’s warming up, she’s been out and about more and I have been trying to take as many snaps as possible so it doesn’t seem like I’M PLAYING CAT-FAVORITES.

So here is a mini-photo album of Penelope, little baby Peeeeeeeen-lop, over the past few days.

Sitting pretty!

Chooch is so fake-mean to her (he’s always like “Drew is the best” and makes vomit sounds when he sees Penelope and he calls her a rat but that’s really just to deflect the fact that he knows she’s prettier than his beloved Drew–we have weird competitions in this house) but she is always like LETS CUDDLE ANYWAY and spends a lot of time in his room watching him play Fortnite with his dumb friends.

Thinking about which plant she’s going to Hulk-smash first.

And here she is getting book recommendations from one of my favorite Booktubers, BooksandLala.

Ok, Penelope says thanks for looking! Now it’s time to pester Henry for dinner!

May 162020
 

We’re two weeks into #asianreadathon and I have read some really solid books! Instead of waiting until the end, I’m breaking this up into several posts because I have already read like 14 books and, well, you can only imagine what my end tally will be. So here are the books I injected into my brain through my eyeballs (and in some cases, ears) for the first half of the readathon!

  1. Miracle Creek – Angie Kim

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If you like courtroom thrillers, this one is for you. Out of all the books on this list so far, this is the one that fits into the category of a book I’d be most likely to pick up, regardless of a reading prompt. It’s a multi-POV look into a tragic accident that occurred at a hyperbaric chamber facility run by a Korean family in Virginia. The book goes back and forth between the present-day trial and the weeks/days leading up to the accident. It’s emotionally gripping and the whole time I couldn’t wait to get to the end to find out WHO and WHY.

Each character is equally compelling, so I didn’t have that, “Ugh another chapter about THIS guy” feeling that I get sometimes with multiple-POV books. But I definitely had my favorites and there were times when I was stressed out because it was starting to look like maybe my favorites were to blame and I found myself shouting NO NO NO more than once.

I highly recommend this. It’s a winner.

2. Hotel Iris – Yoko Ogawa

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The faces I pulled while reading this must have been so ugly. I never read Fifty Shades, but I saw some reviews drawing that comparison so…yay. I didn’t LOVE this book, but I didn’t HATE it, and I think I want to read more from this author…just to see.

This is really short, I think it was less than 200 pages, but it really TAKES YOU THERE.

So far, all of the translated Japanese novels I have read in my life have had that same cold feeling to them. A quiet slow-burn. It’s all mundane then suddenly VERY DISGUSTING AND DEPRAVED.

And then the ending is like, what. And then you just kind of sit there silently, digesting, letting the words you read sink into your brain, heating your skin like the sweaty, filthy touch of an uncle.

Also, it made me think about how amazing it is that I never accidentally found myself stuck in some old man’s sex dungeon when I was a teenager.

3. The Stationery Shop – Marjan Kamali

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Before the library closed, I kept seeing this book being pimped out on the best sellers table in the front. I was drawn to the cover, of course, because would you just look at how beautiful it is?! But when I skimmed the synopsis, it just didn’t seem like something I’d be into. First of all, it’s historical fiction which I had myself convinced I didn’t like. It’s partially set in 1953 Tehran, during the Iranian Coup, which I knew nothing about, but when I was getting my TBR in order for the Asian readathon, I decided to take a chance on this because I wanted my selections to be as diverse as possible, and having Iranian representation on the list was definitely something I wanted.

Still, I expected it to be dry, too political, etc. But good lord, this book is, if I had to put it in abstract terms, like a fucking kaleidoscope of colors. The setting, the characters, the dialogue, the descriptions of the food – it was all so brilliant and sparkling and suddenly I was sending Henry links to recipes for Persian jeweled rice.

I UGLY-CRIED AT THE END OF THIS. I’m a sucker for a good love story I guess.

My Goodreads review was literally just “#brokenheartemoji” lol. I told you I’m basically a book-reviewing genius.

4. I Believe In a Thing Called Love – Maurene Goo

I Believe in a Thing Called Love

A book about a Korean American girl who uses K-Drama tropes to help her land a boyfriend? Yes, please.

This book actually started off differently than I expected – our main character actually doesn’t like K-dramas, but her dad does and is always telling her to move her big head out of the way while she’s doing homework and he’s trying to watch them. She makes the mistake of calling them his “soap operas” which makes him get all defensive about how they’re NOT soap operas and I felt myself getting physically defensive on his behalf because LITERALLY a week prior to reading this, I was on a call at work and some of my co-workers were talking about the shows they’re currently bingeing and one of my work friends said, “Erin wanted me to watch some soap opera last year but it was in a foreign language so I never did….sorry Erin” and I was like, “IT WAS NOT A SOAP OPERA IT WAS A K-DRAMA” and I remember EXACTLY which one it was: Are You Human Too?

So, her loss for not watching it because it is one of the best ones I’ve ever seen and I still think about it a lot.

However, this book is probably definitely not something I will ever think about again. It just didn’t do it for me. I couldn’t connect with any of the characters, and yes I realize that this is YA and they’re in high school but I have 100% related to other YA books before, if the writing is good. And not that the writing was BAD, but it just kind of fell flat, for me at least. I did get excited when specific K-Dramas were referenced but there was one part in particular, when our lead chooses the boy over something else, that didn’t sit well with me.

Verdict? Skip this book and watch a K-Drama instead. If you want a good high school drama, I recommend The Heirs.

5. Skim – Mariko Tamaki

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I wanted to include a graphic novel on the list, and my favorite Booktuber, Kat from Paper Back Dreams, recently read Skim and gave it a great review. So I snagged it from Libby and finished it in one sitting before one of my late shifts. I’m not an avid graphic novel/manga reader so I don’t have much to compare this to, but I thought the illustrations were stunning and it was just a solid coming-of-age story. Would recommend.

6. This Time Will Be Different – Misa Siguira

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I liked this book way more than I anticipated. It seemed like it was going to be just another “unlucky in love” YA book but this tackled hypocrisy and racial themes stemming from the Japanese American internment during WWII and how grossly forgiving American history can be.

What I really loved was that this book was centrally-focused on the high school girl trying to win the guy, but actually fighting for something that matters. But yeah, there’s definitely romance in this book, lol. I liked this one better than I Believe in a Thing Called Love, which I hadn’t anticipated, but there you have it!

Also, that cover is gorge.

7. The Book of M – Peng Shepherd

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Ahhh! Henry and I “buddy-read” this together and by “buddy-read” I mean that it took us an entire week to listen to the audiobook which was v. frustrating since I’m on a schedule here. I mean, this book was over 500 pages long and it was kind of heavy, so I guess that should have been expected. It’s a dystopian thriller, about a pandemic-like phenomenon where people are mysteriously losing their shadows, and with their shadows go their memories, though not all at once.

It follows a variety of characters, and has a very strong The Walking Dead feel, in that a bunch of different groups are trying to get to the same place, and having to overcome obstacles (most being other Shadowed people who have taken to a “kill or be killed” survival tactic). It was slow-moving at first and I considered DNF’ing it after our first round of listening, but I’m really glad I stuck it out because some of the characters really grew on me and it was fascinating to watch this new world unfold as the shadowless began “re-remembering” things in different ways, creating odd new species of animals and flying death kites.

If this hasn’t already been picked up for a movie or TV series, I’d be shocked. Because this is such a winner and would translate SO WELL on screen, I think. Especially the battle scenes – I can never picture those in my head and would like to see how the author intended it to play out visually.

Several days later, Henry was reading someone’s synopsis of this book online and was so angry. He kept pointing at inaccuracies and yelling, “DID THEY EVEN READ IT?!” Henry really liked this book, clearly.

I would highly recommend this to anyone who likes The Walking Dead (Carrie, if you’re reading, this is the book I texted you about!), books about pandemics, and anything with dystopian, post-apocalyptic landscapes.

8. My Year of Meats – Ruth Ozeki 

My Year of Meats

Out of all the books I’ve read so far in May, this is my absolute favorite. I am obsessed with it. I added it on a whim, can’t remember where I saw it recommended, but I am so glad I added it to the list. From nearly the very beginning, I had a feeling that it was going to end up being a 5-star read and I was right.

This was published in 1998 I think and set in the early 90s. The premise is that there is a reality show being filmed in the US for the Japanese market about American wives and the meat-centric meals they cook for their families, so right away you’re like, “Erin, why did you like this book, you’re a vegetarian?” This book brilliantly weaves the SHITTY AND SHADY hand-holding between the US meat industry and pharmaceutical companies into an engaging narrative of a Japanese American woman, Jane, who aspires to be a legit documentarian while directing a reality show she feels morally conflicted about. It bounces back and forth between Jane and the wife of the Japanese man in charge of the show, who is dutifully cooking these American meals for him in spite of being constantly subjected to his abuse.

There are so many poignant stories being explored here and I fell in love with every single character (except for the abusive husband, he sucks obviously) and this was one the only books I’ve read ALL YEAR that I felt fully immersed in. And while I already knew a lot of the things explored here about the sickening US meat industry, it served as a great reminder that my last 24 meatless years have not been in vain.  I don’t think I will be able to stop thinking about it for a long time. It was funny, heart-warming, heart-BREAKING, and still relevant even in 2020. Please read this. It’s fantastic (and whoever the narrator of the audiobook was, she sounded like Jane Lynch and I was so into it).

[SIDE NOTE: Whoa, hold up. I Googled the narrator of the audiobook (Kate Fleming) and she apparently died in 2006 when a flashflood trapped her in her basement studio, and according to her Wiki page, at the hospital, her wife of 9 years—Charlene Strong—“was denied access to see Fleming until permission was granted by an out-of-state relative. The experience led Strong to advocate for legislation that was eventually passed as Washington’s Domestic Partnership Law.”]

9. Ghachar Ghochar – Vivek Shanbhag

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Please read this. It’s just a little, unassuming novella, but SO GOOD and poignant, giving a quick insight at how money and class change the dynamics within a family in Bangalore. Henry and I buddy-read this together in one day and the ending made us look at each other like, “OMG what.”

As someone who grew up with everything and then suddenly became an adult with nothing, I’m always interested in reading about the trials and tribs of other families with $$$ drama. It’s amazing how much money (or lack of) can change people, especially family.

10. Braised Pork – An Yu

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I still don’t know how I feel about this book and feel like it deserves a re-read at some point. It’s very quiet, mysterious. Kind of a thriller? Sort of a mystery? There’s a bit of fabulism? A woman finds her husband dead in the bathtub, leaving behind a drawing of a fish with a man’s head. She becomes obsessed with this image and embarks on a journey to find out what it all means.

All I can say is it’s weird and then it ends. Read it or don’t read it. It’s your life.

11. Tiny Pretty Things – Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton

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UGH this book, I don’t know why I was expecting something better. It’s just about how mean girls are to each other (and themselves) in some ballet academy in New York, except that I didn’t care about any of them, not even the “good” girl, and it just seemed like there was no point but I guess it was well-received by those who matter because it’s becoming a Netflix series. I hope the Korean representation is good in the series, because it’s kind of “meh” in this book.

12. Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 – Cho Nam-Joo

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982

Oh shit son, this book is where it’s at. It follows Kim Jiyoung, from when she’s a child, to an adult, and shows all the ways she’s been discriminated against for being a woman. It’s a quick read, and the ending is WOW JUST WOW. I can see why this book was a best-seller in Korea and I am so glad it’s recently been translated to English. I feel like every man should be required to read books like this.

I didn’t know this until now, but THIS HAS BEEN MADE INTO A MOVIE and one of my favorite Korean actors, Gong Yoo, plays the husband and I am so stoked for it!!

Please read this book. It includes real facts throughout the fictional narrative, which I loved. You know I love learning as much about Korea as possible!

13. Wicked Fox – Kat Cho

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Sadly, I followed that strong Korean pick with a super weak, disappointing YA supernatural romp. I really thought I would enjoy a book about a gumiho (9-tailed fox spirit) in Seoul, but it was sooooooo dumb. The only thing I liked was the quick shout-out to BIGBANG’s TOP, and the various mentions of Korean foods which made me super hungry and miss Korea so much. But yeah, this book was not that great and I was barely able to stay focused.

14. A Thousand Beginnings and Endings – multiple authors/anthology

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings

To round-out my first two weeks of Asian books, I read this anthology of popular Asian folklore retellings. I started it early into the readathon, but I only read one story a night because anthologies, as I’ve discovered, aren’t really for me. This one had a lot of duds but some really solid ones too, like the Korean one – “Land of the Morning Calm” by E.C.Myers based on the Chasa Bonpuli fable –  (I swear I wasn’t being biased, I just genuinely really liked it) and the last two in the book, one of which was a Japanese retelling of the kitsune legend (“Eyes Like Candlelight” – Julie Kagawa) and another was based on the Chinese legend The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl (“The Crimson Cloak” – Cindy Pon), made me cry like a baby.

***

Anyway, this has been the last two weeks of my life. Now I’m crying because I’m thinking about that Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 movie and I just can’t handle my emotions right now. Also, I want ice cream.

May 142020
 

In the spirit of vicarious traveling during this pandemic, I am here to retell the tale about the time I strong-armed Henry into making a detour on our southern road trip in 2015. Those were the days.

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Last winter, after we decided where this summer’s vacation was going to take us—-and Henry started bleeding money from all blue-collared orifices—-I excitedly consulted Roadside America to find all the ways to drag our trek back to Pittsburgh into a poorly-written modern remake of Homer’s Odyssey, only with less blood weddings, spiritual growth, and Latin declensions.

One of the “attractions” I read about was this mysterious-sounding African village in Sheldon, SC called Kingdom of Oyotunji. I sent Henry the link and received no response. Shocker. During the beginning half of our trip, I kept bringing it up, and Henry just kept saying things like, “We’re not going that way” and “It recently burned to the ground” and “Katy Perry is performing there all week.”

But I would not be deterred.

It turns out, when we left Savannah that Friday in July, the village was on our exact route to Charlotte, NC. Henry either must have had his guard down or was just that fatigued from fielding my lofty requests all week, because he actually turned off the highway when we arrived at the Sheldon exit! I couldn’t believe my good fortune.

“Is this place is even open?” he sighed. “It better fucking be open.” But I could tell that what he really meant was, “I hope it’s not open because I don’t want to go but I am still going to be mad if it’s not open because either way this is a waste of time and I hate you.” Over the years, we have learned to communicate through a series of huffy sighs, glares, and fists slamming against steering wheels.

Actually, their website said that they were open until 7:00 (it wasn’t quite 6 yet so we had time in our favor, at least), but they recommend that you email them if you want to stop by for a tour. I mean, I did that, but we were already about 20 minutes away so we were going to stop by regardless. Also, it seemed weird to me that this mysterious US-seceded African village in the Gulleh Geeche South Carolina low-country (I got that from their website because I’m a journalist now) even has the Internet and didn’t require me to send notice via carrier pigeon.

Just kidding. I’m not that culturally ignorant. But on that note, the Oyotunji community is something that I definitely know nothing about and I was genuinely interested in learning about how they live. (And also genuinely interested in making Henry feel uncomfortable, because he HATES taking tours of places.)
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Chooch was sleeping when we made it to the entrance of the kingdom, which required us to turn off the highway and continue on down a dirt road buffeted by forest. The whole time, Henry was murmuring, “I hate you. I fucking hate you. Fuck my life” through gritted teeth, while I cracked up next to him so hard that I was wheezing.

“It’s not fucking funny!” he said. BUT IT IS, HERNY.

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At the end of the path, we could see the gate to the compound, and Henry started to rejoice because it was closed.

“Yeah but keep going, maybe there’s a doorbell,” I urged, because we had come so far!

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Most of my pictures are blurry and out of focus because I guess I was just that excited about being there.

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Henry kept trying to tell me in a dozen different ways that this joint was closed, but too bad I noticed the “Blow Your Horn” sign next to the gate before he had a chance to gouge my eyes out with his strong and masculine Service thumbs.

“Blow the horn,” I demanded.

“No, I’m not blowing the fucking horn,” Henry hissed in response.

But if you ask Henry to do something enough times while consistently raising your voice until it’s a crackling screech, he eventually gives up and does the thing! So he reluctantly pressed down on the car horn and then we waited.

“No one’s coming,” he sighed, ready to throw the car into drive.

“Just wait!” I begged, holding my gaze hard against the big red doors.

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After about 30 seconds of nail-biting suspense, a man dressed in a white robe stepped out from behind a fence along the left-hand perimeter of the property.

“Oh great, Erin. Just great,” Henry huffed, lowering the window so the man could talk to us.

“Are you guys looking to do the tour?” he asked after we exchanged proper Southern salutations. (You know. “Hello”s were said.) Leaning across Henry, I emphatically nodded my head. You bet your white-robed ass I want a tour. I want to know all about the Oyotunji tribe! I was just getting ready to barrel-roll myself out of the car when he went on to explain that unfortunately, they’ve been mourning the death of their leader, in Africa, for the last three days and had closed the community off to the public for that.

“We open back up tomorrow though, if you’ll be in the area?”

Henry nodded and said something along the lines of, “Yeah, we might be.”

“I was actually just on my way out to take a shower when I heard you beep,” the man said, explaining that he’s not usually the one who gives the tours.

He then gave us a brief run-down of the community, told us how he’s originally from Florida but had shed his American citizenship 20+ years ago in favor of living a simple life in the woods of South Carolina. They’re a community of around 40 people, self-sustained, they home school their children, and basically live a life where no one has to give a shit about the things that Americans give a shit about that don’t even matter, like Donald Trump, the idiot Superbowl, and Miley Cyrus’s pasties.

I can only imagine how better behaved their kids are than Chooch.

This whole time, I was trying to maintain strong eye contact with him while chewing on the insides of my cheeks to keep from laughing outright. Look, please understand that I don’t think anything about their community is funny, and I certainly don’t find humor in the fact that they were all in mourning, but it was the situation itself: the detour into the woods of Beaufort County, Henry’s reluctance, the Jonestown Massacre vibe of it all….it was all of these things, like sitting in church during the homily and feeling that itch to laugh out loud for no good reason, that had me writhing in giddy discomfort.

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Some other tourist-sucker pulled in behind us about 10 minutes into our on-the-fly history lesson from our new robed friend. He quickly wrapped it up and then excused himself to go talk to the other visitor.

“Are we really going to come back tomorrow?!” I screamed as we slowly drove back out to the highway.

“Wha—-? No!” he said, his big bushy brows all furrowed.

“But when that guy asked if we were going to be in the area—”

“Yeah well, I didn’t mean it.” And he used his End of Story tone, so I sulked for awhile.

Oyotunji, I’ll be back for you someday.

But then we pulled over at the Carolina Cider Company! We had been on a mission to procure boiled peanuts the whole time we were in the south and finally, it was our time. On our last day, no less.

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Chooch was still sleeping, how he managed to sleep through all of the Oyotunji excitement, I’ll never know. At first, Henry was like, “Just crack the window, he’ll be fine.” But then I was overcome with paranoia and something else that I couldn’t quite put my finger on….the overwhelming need to PARENT, maybe? Nah. I think I have it confused with the desire to not have Child Protective Services called on my ass.

What would the Oyotunji do, I thought hard to myself.  Aside from probably not giving a shit about boiled peanuts, I mean.

I went out to the car to wake up Chooch and proceeded to set off the car alarm. The proprietor of the cider establishment and the only two patrons there at that time stopped what they were doing in order to gawk at me from the open doors of the store.

“What are you doing!?” Henry yelled, marching over with the car keys to stop the alarm. SO SORRY THAT I WAS TRYING TO SAVE MY KID FROM ASPHYXIATION.

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So then I was able to save Chooch and he groggily followed me into the store while I excitedly told him about what he had missed, but I don’t think he believed me.

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Henry bought us stuff and boiled peanuts are weird as fuck, yet I couldn’t stop eating them.

Eventually, we made it to a shady Red Roof Inn, I mean shadier than the typical Red Roof Inn, in Charlotte. We had to pass Carowinds on the way, with its coasters all sexy and lit up against the night sky. I begged Henry to take us there but he was like, “IT’S NEARLY 10’O CLOCK AT NIGHT!” God, he always has an excuse.

Luckily, the Red Roof was only shady on the outside (i.e. the parking lot and the entire right section of the motel where I’m pretty sure people were living and since it was a Friday night, shit was popping off) and the inside was clean and recently remodeled. I realized that HENRY hadn’t fed us dinner, so he went to a vending machine and came back with snacks and a Snickers. THANKS, PA.

We live large on vacation.

***

Anyway, aside from some additional pictures from our travel day back to Pittsburgh, that pretty  much wraps up our whirlwind Southern road trip, which took me an entire month to recap. But holy shit, we did so much! I love these trips so much, and I know that they don’t really seem like “vacations” because we’re so go-go-go, but I couldn’t imagine sitting in one place for 7 days and “relaxing.” I honestly don’t know how to relax. I look forward to these trips so much because we get to see cool things, meet really awesome people, and make some pretty hilarious memories.

We hadn’t even crossed the Pennsylvania state line yet and I was already asking Henry where we’re going to go next. He just glared at me.

May 132020
 

In the 80s and 90s, my grandma went through a heavy QVC-phase where she would buy all of the shit, willy-nilly. Thighmasters, fancy pots, blenders, watches. She bought a lot of this shit IN HER SLEEP, my Pappap was convinced. She would sleepwalk, click on the TV, and get triggered by the BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE manic cat-calls while everyone else was sleeping. And then the packages would start trickling in and she’d be all did I do that?

We found so many boxes of cookbooks and other infomercial castoffs in the garage when we were cleaning out my Pappap’s house a few years ago.

She also had a penchant for buying those creepy porcelain collector dolls that were always advertised on those cardstock inserts in the middle of TV Guide and what was that elder health ‘zine called? Prevention? They were supposedly bought with the intention of me “inheriting” they but I was 100% not interested in some fragile Little Bo Peep living in my bedroom, thanks grandma, please keep her at your house and I’ll visit her. Maybe.

One of the things bipolar people are known to partake in during manic episodes is reckless spending. Somehow, I have managed to fight that “symptom” of my “condition” all these years. I’ll say to Henry, “Hey, at least I haven’t bankrupted us, right?” as I’m sitting in the middle of broken glass and debris after my latest episode, and he’s just like, “YEAH, AT LEAST.” But APPARENTLY it’s a pandemic that will sucker punch my willpower and have me reaching me for my (virtual) wallet because I have suddenly started to buy all of the things I see on Instagram, whether it’s an ad specially targeted to lure in suckers like me, or it’s brands/companies that I already follow.

Instagram is my fucking QVC, you guys.

I’ve bought coffee samples, fancy nut butter samples, “healthy” veggie bar samples, cute shirts from indie designers with snacks and cartoon bananas for when I ever return to work (then they arrived and I noticed the bananas have boobs lol), Korean masks for pandemic safety, all of the enamel pins, cheap rings from China (because I clearly didn’t learn my lesson with the dragon coat), ETC ETC ETC.

Usually, I’m kind of a tight wad and I will stop myself at the last minute before completing a transaction, but here I am, bored AF with nothing else going on except for waiting for the mail every day. All bets are off during quarantine! Now in between reading books and exercising, I’m opening the front door every 20 minutes to see if any packages have been delivered, but it’s usually just stupid shit that Henry orders from Amazon.

Sigh.

To my credit though, I do send a lot of the ads to Henry first, and then he will say either, “do what you want” or “DO THE CATS REALLY NEED A $200 FOOD DISH,” plus he can smell a scam a mile away. Probably because he actually reads the reviews. I don’t have time for that!!

Anyway, here are some things I have bought over the last few weeks, thanks to Instagram.

Not only is Sugar Spell Scoops the BEST ice cream shop in Pittsburgh (and it’s vegan!), but they also have the BEST MERCH! How amazing is this shirt? Come as you are, or come wearing the coolest ice cream shop t-shirt ever created.

I got a new iPhone in March, so I had to get new phone cases. I love that milk tea one because if you press on it, the boba floats!

Chooch is just as bad as me and sends Henry and me ads he sees on Instagram for vegan goods, like these pork rinds WHICH ARE FUCKING DELICIOUS. I think they’re made by the same guy who created the Impossible Burger? Or maybe it’s the Beyond Burger? I can’t remember now. But whoever made these, you did a good job.

I’m also on a bunting/garland kick so if you ever see any cool ones that scream “OH HONESTLY ERIN” please let me know. I actually bought a Robert Smith-head one (from Etsy though not Instagram) so look forward to seeing photos of that sometime soon when I move my Robert Smith self portrait to its new spot in the house in order to make room for the Seoul subway wall-hanging which might be finished sometime in 2021. Also – neon. Looking for some good Korean neon signs. I wanted to have one custom-made but that set Henry off. I guess he really does have some type of set threshold when it comes to my interior design whims.

Sorry if this is incoherent but I’m somehow half asleep yet also wired on coffee, and I really have no idea what “normal” and “functioning” feel like anymore. Do I want to go to bed or run some laps? WHO CAN TELL.

 

May 112020
 

Here I am with an obligatory Mother’s Day recap. It was an OK day! Henry and Chooch got me a beautiful life-size cut-out of Taemin, which arrived several days earlier and you would think that would have been enough for me but I’m just never satisfied (WHEN DOVES CRY, ETC ETC) and I always get a little (lol) dramatic on this day, Valentine’s Day, and my birthday but that’s fine. I fled to the cemetery where I spent some quiet time in the sunshine and even read a book (“Braised Pork” by An Yu) while sitting on the wall of a mausoleum like a true goth from the 90s.

It’s a struggle.

While I was there, these doofs sent me this picture:

…and then I was like, “OK FINE I WON’T RUN AWAY TO KOREA…THIS TIME.” But I’m not lying, it was all I could think about while I walked aimless laps around good ol’ Uniondale Cemetery which never has any living people in it until there is a pandemic and now I’m never alone there anymore which is wildly annoying.

We ordered vegan foodstuffs from Mandy’s Pizza later that day and we all ate in blissful harmony. You can’t even tell it’s vegan!

Then I learned about the existence of Alison Roman thanks to Twitter and I wish I could go back to the days when I didn’t know who she is because, yuck.

Sorry, I just can’t get enough of this pretty boy. However, he’s scared us multiple times since joining our household. I keep catching him in my periphery while I’m working and he gives me a little start every time!

Chooch drew this on the back of the card he made me, lol. But now I’m sad because I promise you, if things had played out differently, my ass would have for sure have been stuffed into multiple rollercoaster seats over the weekend.

I mean, at the very least, we probably would have walked to Scoops for an ice cream cone.

Maybe someday.

In other mom news, MY mom dyed her hair pastel blue which is pretty bad-ass.

OK, back to watching videos of some guy walking through various Seoul subway stations. I have very specific YouTube-viewing habits.