Also we went to Richmond.

Our annual OBX trip was bookended by some time in Richmond. While it can be stressful to schedule two sets of visits while we’re in town, it’s also very convenient that we can see all the parents in one fell swoop, rather than having to trade off every year like many couples do.

In fact, we even got to see Teddy and Laura, twice actually!

group photo in front of City Diner

…we also got to see this bust of Napoleon who was starting stonily during our Friday night dinner.

with Napoleon bust

We didn’t get to spend much time in Richmond, so we didn’t get to hit all of our favorite spots. We chose wisely though–barbecue from Buzz & Ned’s, which is conveniently located near Mom’s house. No one does bbq like the south!

eating Buzz & Ned's ribs

Mom and Steve recently adopted a little black kitten who Steve found on the front porch. They named her Inkling, and she’s just the tiniest, spunkiest little thing! She had just learned to go up and down the steps by herself.

Mom with Inkling

Steve with Inkling

And don’t worry, Bodger wasn’t missing us too much. We left him with an awesome sitter, Kevin, who took him on several adventures…even all the way to North Bay with a Frenchie friend. Check out this amazing photo he snapped; it belongs on a postcard!

Bodger in front of Golden Gate Bridge

What a lucky dog!

OBX 2016

Unlike our trips to Dunemaker in the Outer Banks (1, 2, 3, 45), we switched things up by turning right–not left–onto Highway 12, driving down for a week with the Hus-friend’s family in a sound-side house in Rodanthe. (We were actually quite close to the Nights in Rodanthe house.) I love practically everything about the Outer Banks, and I was excited to stay in a new location that doesn’t require a harrowing drive on the sand.

Soundside view
The view from our back deck.

It was the perfect relaxing week, and I really enjoyed spending time with all my in-laws. I like that beach houses “force” you to be together, but you can spend the time doing your own thing. While I did contribute to the impressive puzzle efforts, I spent a lot of time reading mystery novels and working on the sweater that I did not finish in time.

Of course, I love the ocean and am therefore very special. One of my great joys in life, besides eating good fries, is walking on the beach. And fortunately, this time of year, the Atlantic is not frigid, so you can dip your toes in without squealing and losing your dignity. And you can get in the ocean to swim BECAUSE WHAT IS THE POINT OF A BEACH VACATION IF YOU DON’T GET IN THE OCEAN?

Sunset on the OBX
This is the one morning I got up to see the sunrise.

I unabashedly love everything about the Outer Banks: The sand everywhere! The brightly colored houses! Everyone wearing shirts that say OBX! The smell of sunscreen! The high concentration of ice cream and fudge shop(pe)s! The inescapable beach puns! The Hus-friend is constantly baffled by my unwavering love of the OBX and not-real-but-kind-of-real desire to pack up and move there full time. I even love the touristy stuff! Like climbing the 257 steps to the top of Cape Hatteras lighthouse and taking some really amazing selfies.

group selfie, Hatteras lighthouse

Failed selfie, Hatteras lighthouse
We’re so good at this.

Okay, I don’t love everything, for example, the commercialization and appearance of chain stores and restaurants, and I don’t love abundance of tacky kitsch that just makes junk in landfills. I hope I never suffer such a catastrophic brain aneurysm that I find these signs to be acceptable home decorations.

tacky beach signs

Recently, I’ve also noticed the stunning lack of diversity on the Outer Banks, notable in the rental companies’ glossy brochures filled with smiling white people in white summer clothing, enjoying seafood on sun-drenched decks. Basically everyone is Caucasian. I saw maybe two African American families, and the majority of Asians were students from China on work visas, manning the cash registers at the grocery store. (I approached and asked where they were from.) Having lived in SF for awhile, it was shocking to see so few people who look like me. I never noticed it as a child, despite coming every summer.

Corolla surf shop tweet
(I tweeted this last year.)
Screen Shot 2016-08-28 at 6.17.10 PM
And they responded one year later.

Because the Hus-friend and I have been together so long, we’ve had several beach vacation with his cousins who are now teenagers. I feel honored that they still find me cool enough to hang out with and say that the mac and cheese I make is their favorite.

Beach kitsch @ Scotch Bonnet

Man, those two can really put away food! We ate quite well, including taking down 200 clams and a lot of the traditional beach fudge. Well, that was mostly one of us…

Despite two failed attempts, we finally made it to the Orange Blossom bakery and tried one of their famous “apple uglies” (a gigantic apple fritter).

I don’t like apple fritters, so the Hus-friend and I opted for a massive cinnamon roll with cream cheese frosting. We ate it while waiting for the ferry, and I am proud to say that we did not get frosting anywhere in my mother-in-law’s car (the same car we took on WVT, actually).

cinnamon roll from Orange Blossom Bakery
(We ripped off one side of the bag to make a tray of sorts.)

What ferry, you may ask. Ah, yes, we took the hour-long ferry ride south to the last island in the chain: Ocracoke, which is quite possibly my favorite place in the entire world. The Hus-friend is really confused by this one, and I can’t really explain it. Certainly, a lot of my uncharacteristically earnest fondness for Ocracoke lies in the nostalgia I feel for it–I went there with Dad and Pat for several consecutive summers. Even as a kid though, I’d draw pictures of it, dream about moving there, and read all the descriptions of the rental houses by flashlight before going to sleep. I’m basically the coolest person you know.

IMG_20160825_155437

Unlike other parts of the OBX, Ocracoke has remained relatively quaint and slow-paced. I was surprised by how similar it is to when I used to come as a kid; I can actually find a lot of things by memory. There aren’t chain stores, and the best way to get around is by bicycle or walking. Like, look up the definition of “charming”–IT’S BASICALLY SUN-DAPPLED HOWARD STREET WITH ITS LIVE OAKS.

Howard Street, Ocracoke

This buxom mermaid has been there as long as I can remember, and I never miss an opportunity for a touristy photo.

Ocracoke mermaid photo op

Also, this painfully adorable lighthouse. It’s so short and squat. That’s my goal in life: to be like this lighthouse: sturdy and useful and cute.

Ocracoke lighthouse jumping photo

See this intersection? When I was 11, my friend Kaley and I decided to go crabbing off the boat ramp just past the parking lot. We only caught two crabs (and laughed so hard that we peed and had to jump in the water to hide the evidence), which we tried to bring back to our rental house in a bucket attached to the back of my bicycle with a bungee cord. Obviously, this didn’t work, and the bucket immediately fell off, dumping our catch in the middle of this street. We held up traffic for several minutes, running around with towels chasing the spilled crabs and putting them back in the bucket.

Ocracoke street

Did you know that Outer Banks is home to two species of tree frogs? There are green tree frogs and squirrel tree frogs which basically look exactly the same. All week, I was losing.my.shit about these fucking adorable frogs that would stick to the doors and window, waiting to eat bugs attracted to the house lights. Unfortunately, I found three dead ones that had gotten inside the house and dried up. I couldn’t bring myself to collect their little desiccated bodies, so thanks to the Hus-friend for disposing of them for me.

tree frog on house window

While we were on the drive-on ferry back from Ocracoke, my father-in-law said, “Look, Mica! A frog!” Sure enough, one was hopping along the front of the ferry, dangerously close to car wheels and the edge of the boat. When I flung myself out of the car to get a better look, I noticed that his skin looked dull and dry, which wasn’t surprising given that the floor of the ferry is sun-baked metal. Much to the amusement of other passengers, I ran around the bow of the ship, trying to catch him and throw water on him, screaming “NO, DON’T DO THAT!” as he hopped closer and closer to the roaring waters off bow. Eventually, he got tired, and I scooped him up and brought him back to the car, where he escaped and hopped around the backseat. Finally, I got him inside an empty drink cup, where he chilled out until we got back to Hatteras and I could dump him in a marshy area on the side of the road. I was very pleased with my frog rescue. Also, I named him Howard.

Howard the frog

(Several people encouraged Howard to jump off the ferry into the water because they don’t know that 1) a frog cannot survive in salt water and 2) a tree frog could not possibly have made it that far back to land. I tried to educate them by screaming back, “No, he’ll die,” but people are painfully uninformed and I just cannot even.)

And that’s basically how I spent my summer vacation.

We’re back in SF now, and I am going through mild beach withdrawal (though I don’t miss the damp sheets from the oppressive humidity). Living on the West Coast, it is admittedly a lot of work to get all the way to a sandy strip of barrier islands off of North Carolina, but I’m already dreaming of next year.

BYE, BEACH. I MISS U.

Pamlico sound, Ocracoke

Tina’s Magical Bachelorette Weekend!

Tina got married last month. Instead of a “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” trip, she opted for a “bachelorette” weekend at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (TM) at Universal Studios outside of LA [henceforth referred to as “HPWorld”]. Also, she planned everything: including organizing the dates for seven people, booking an AirBnb, and buying all the tickets to HPWorld.

Oh, also, she booked plane tickets for the two of us because hell if we were driving down through the central valley. We’d probably just die in the desert. So last Friday, we were travel buddies on the short flight from SFO to LAX with some “Oriental” snack mix to keep us occupied.

flying to LA with Tina

Guess who picked us up at the airport? Our high school friend Dorothy, whom I last saw on WVT! We drove an incredibly circuitous route from LAX to our AirBnb in Hollywood, our home for the next 36 hours. Our little unit was plastered with black-and-white photos of Marilyn Monroe and decorated with crystal wall-hangings, fake Oscar statuettes, and hairy pillows and rugs that shed a lot. It also had a depressing windowless closet-turned-bedroom that I dubbed “murder room” that a few people got to sleep in.

Asian ladies

The rest of our party (Brooke, Camey, Iris, and Daniella) arrived after we had eaten dinner and were in PJS, watching the Olympics (of course). I had only met one of them, Brooke, but I was sure we’d all get along knowing that Tina was the common link. The next day, we got up early and were ready for our adventure at HPWorld!

Castle at HPWorld

Based on advice from previous attendees, we made a bee-line for Ollivander’s wandshop  where there is a small show about getting picked for your wand. Tina and Camey  were selected as audience participants, which was hokey and fun–they “made” lights turn on and bookshelves move inside a darkened room filled with wand boxes.

Sorry, these photos suck because it was so dark. And also because I am a terrible photographer. I tried to get one of Tina looked with wonderment at all the boxes of wands, but….she just kind of looks like “What is wand?”

We bought Tina a wand to commemorate this trip, and it was one of the ones with a sensor that “makes” things move at certain points around the park: quills writing by themselves, lights illuminating in windows, etc.. Like all good wands, Ollivander’s quality pieces are made in China (ha, ha).

IMG_20160813_093956

After Ollivander’s, we immediately got in a very long line (110 minutes!) for the castle ride at Hogwarts. While we were in line, we made “friends” with the Chinese tourists behind us accidentally….

Note also that Camey is drinking butterbeer that we purchased at a concessions cart. It is very sweet; Camey had two. I am impressed.

IMG_5428

(Everyone except the Hus-friend has been unable to find me in the above photo. I’m in the upper lefthand corner.)

The castle ride was really cool; there’s a lot of visual stimulus paired with a moving seat that makes you feel like you’re flying/diving/swooping. Unfortunately, it also made me quite motion sick, but I felt better after eating lunch at The Three Broomsticks. Sorry if you haven’t read HP and don’t know what I’m talking about.

We explored Hogsmeade, popping into various stores-come-to-life from the books.

IMG_20160813_130127

The park is very well done: clean and well-landscaped, and the park attendants are all good at staying in character and helping maintain the atmosphere. I felt so sorry for them, dressed in their wool school sweaters and heavy robes on a summer day in southern California. The glittery chunks of fake snow adorning the tilted village buildings were fooling no one–it was hot.

IMG_20160813_095544

In the afternoon, we exited HPWorld and explored some of the rest of Universal Studios. We felt like old people when we finally got to ride the Universal Studios tour, not because we got to see set pieces from iconic movies and TV shows, but because we got to sit down for the better part of an hour.

tram ride at Universal Studios

Basically, I learned that movies are lies. You think things were filmed in New York City; they weren’t. They were filmed on a sound stage or in front of a street of building facades outside of Los Angeles…like this set used in War of the Worlds. There’s someone’s house on the hill, overlooking this totally destroyed airplane set piece. Can you imagine living in a house with that weird view? LA, man, it’s a weird place. I basically assumed everyone working at Universal Studios was hoping to break into showbiz.

War of the Worlds set, Universal Studios

(I actually had to leave the park early because I got a headache. While waiting for the rest of the group to get back, I came to terms with the fact that Pottermore sorted me into Hufflepuff house.)

We had so much fun celebrating Tina this past weekend! The other women brought decorations and organized cute HP-themed gifts for her. Instead of being visited by strippers, I’m proud to say that we took teen magazine quizzes, geeked out over Harry Potter, ate pizza in Hollywood, inhaled a bag of cheesy puffs, and enjoyed a delicious Sunday breakfast at Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles, a suggestion by LA native Daniella. (Okay, we did giggle a lot about the menu item: “One waffle with one succulent breast.”)

Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles

It was a great weekend with a delightful group of people, old friends and new! Can’t wait for all the fun we’ll have at Tina and Ben’s wedding reception coming up in October.

group shot at HP World
front row: Brooke, Tina, and Camey back row: Dorothy, me, Daniella, Iris

BRB. Olympics.

Ooh, the Olympics are on, so I’m enjoying my upholding my long-standing tradition of watching the Olympics while sprawled out in a most un-athletic way on the couch, typically eating snacks. I missed a lot of the London 2012 Olympics because I was in Korea, so I am VERY invested in this year’s competitions.

We actually celebrated the Hus-friend’s birthday by watching the opening ceremony and eating take-out sushi in our living room. Adult life! (NBC, by the way, I’m terribly disappointed with your coverage. This was the Parade of Nations, not the Macy’s Day Parade.)

There was chocolate birthday cake and Olympics!

And on Sunday morning, I baked up some homemade cinnamon rolls…and watched more Olympics.

If you need me, you’ll know where to find me for the next two weeks.

I try a million-step Korean skincare routine.

I’ve recently adopted [HA!] a Korean-inspired skincare routine. Maybe you’ve read about this multi-step monstrosity on a beauty blog or from some mind-poisoning women’s magazine. I’ve seen references to the Korean skincare routine cropping up a lot on the Internet; it’s always something like “Have you ever noticed that Korean women have the dewy, flawless complexions?” followed by a promotional photo of an actress in a drama. Like, yes, but okay:

  1. make-up!
  2. photoshopping!!
  3. (and probably some genes?)

The Korean skincare routine is, as far as I can tell, somewhat a giant, trendy marketing ploy and somewhat based in truth. I’ve seen real Koreans making skincare a part of their day. Even bowling shirt-wearing Big Aunt’s vanity was covered in scores of bottles and vials, and a lot of my Korean friends have a definite routine that includes more than just washing with soap. Sun Joo, for example, really takes care of her skin, and it shows. (Full disclosure: she is also wearing make-up here.)

Mica and SunJoo

I think there’s probably some truth in preventative skincare; at the very least, I don’t think it will hurt me. I’ve been using a daily facial moisturizer with SPF and a nightly toner for several years now, so adopting a Korean-inspired routine is in line with my perpetual goal of preventing premature aging, sun damage, and, of course, skin cancer.

So here’s what my side of the bathroom counter looks like these days:

my Korean skincare products
L-R: Water-based cleanser, oil cleanser, essence, toner, SPF, moisturizer, eyecream, scrub

It’s a lot, right? I purchased most of these Korean products online [myself, with my own money. I’m not being compensated by anyone for this post.]. Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Two-step cleanse: 1) Oil-based cleanser to remove sticky make-up and 2) foaming cleanser get “everything else” [PM only. In the morning, I just use the face soap in the shower.]
  • Toner: This is the same one I’ve been using for a few years as a refresher/moisturizer.
  • Essence: I don’t actually know WTF this is, so I was hesitant to try it. My Korean friends actually all use this though. It supposedly helps with complexion, fine lines, wrinkles, blah blah blah, essential-step-miracle-product-I-don’t-know-what.
  • Eye cream: I just started this because I have under-eye circles. I think it’s from not getting enough sleep though.
  • Moisturizer: I’ve always used a face lotion with SPF in the morning, so the new step here is at night, patting on an aloe-based moisturizer.
  • (Once a week/when I remember: an exfoliating scrub. It’s supposed to be a mask, but I never wait that long.)

Okay, so that’s, like, a fuckton of steps, but it doesn’t actually take that long, especially compared to some women’s make-up routines. As for results? Well, I’ve been adding in products for about a month or so, and I don’t think my skin looks any worse. I’m breaking out slightly less, but that could be due to other factors, like eating less Greek yogurt. Swapping my old salicylic acid-based  facial cleanser for the gentler two-step cleanse does make my skin feel much less tight and dry. When I wake up in the morning, my skin feels healthily soft and not overly oily.

However, even if these products aren’t magical (They’re not.), they serve a valuable purpose: feeling like a small daily luxury. I don’t do a lot of grooming, and I’d rather put my time and effort into making my skin healthy, rather than making it look healthy with makeup.  My multi-step routine feels like a nice treat to use these products, a little pause and reminder to treat myself well (which, admittedly, I almost always do).

 

 

So I bought these house pants…

Last week, I bought some “slouchy trousers” from Everlane that finally arrived for me to try on. On the model, these pants have a casual, stylish drape that skimmed over the legs, and I was super excited about not-tight-but-not-shitty-looking pants.

Then the so-called slouchy trousers arrived, and GUESS WHAT! They are NOT slouchy on me at all. They barely make it over my thighs and basically just look like ill-fitting black trousers. I’m returning them. Admittedly, I probably could have gone up a size for a little looseness, but I didn’t love the scratchiness of the wool and don’t feel the need to try again. Honestly, I’m just not sure if those bottoms are gonna’ work for me. They don’t have any stretch, and, well, my legs mean business and need some leeway.

Ever in search of black pants, my preferred bottom, I went on a shopping spree and bought two new “outside the house” pairs. And one new “inside the house” pair that I LOVE.

Uniqlo drape pants
I❤ U, pants.

They’re Uniqlo’s “Drape [Lounge] pants,” and they actually drape over my squat-powered legs. They’re light and airy, and they even have pockets. They’re the best house pants, which are quite honestly the only kind of pants I want to wear.

I’m coming to a slow but so obvious realization that I always prioritize practicality and comfort over stylishness and “looking good.” Don’t get me wrong; I’m not going to traipse around in a heather grey sweatsuit that makes me look like a literal sack of human feces. Figure-flattery was my main concern for awhile, but I’ve come to understand that that just means playing up my assets (tiny waist!) and downplaying my [many] “undesirable” traits (big hips and thighs! Short muscular legs!) to conform to a standard beauty ideal (taller, thinner). If I were to wear only the most flattering silhouettes for my body type, I’d be stuck with only fit-and-flare dresses and chunky heels, and I don’t have time to walk around in delicate clothes. There’s a difference between wearing actively unflattering pieces and just, well, normal clothes that make me look fine and basically like a normal human being. Also, no pants are going to make my calves look slender, so why even bother trying to find any?

(I have no issue with people wearing clothes that are “unflattering” for their body type and one day aspire to give no fucks at all.)

So yes, ajumma/아줌마 pants are the name of the game! Good thing I live in San Francisco where you can be as aggressively casual as you want. (Don’t worry, I don’t wear these to work.)

Wearing lounge pants

Semone, one of my adoptee friends, congratulated me on my ajumma pants and said I should test them out with a good, ole’ squat.

Asian squatting in ajumma pants

(I have casual but slightly better-looking work attire, but when I’m home, I’m allllll about comfort.)

Keeping my knitting shit together

I’ve been working most evenings on my summer cardigan, which may not even be finished before the end of summer. It’s my first big lace project, so I’m being really careful about counting rows and keeping myself on track. For example, every eight rows, I add a lifeline: a piece of yarn threaded through the live stitches that you can go back to in the event that you have to rip out a bunch of your progress. It’s kind of like a “save your progress” point in a video game.

I recently got to a fairly complicated sounding part of the pattern with instructions that didn’t make a lot of sense to me. After having been burned by a few patterns with inaccurate stitch math, I like to visualize what I’ll be knitting in advance and understand how many stitches I should end up with after the various increases and decreases. This is how I ended up with this:

figuring out stitch math
# is the row, D = Decrease, WS = Wrong Side

Somehow, I’ve been knitting for awhile and still don’t own a row counter, one of those little gadgets that you press to keep track of rows. I’m decent at “reading” my knitting at this point, so I can usually count rows to figure out where I am. However, if I’m being really careful, as I am for this project, I make tally marks in my notebook. The Hus-friend jokes that this notebook makes me look like like a scary crazy person:

keeping track of knitting progress

And on that note, back to sweater knitting!