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cholula, you ain’t no tabasco

Naomi Campbell once threw a phone at her assistant. But she can’t be all bad. After all, she once revealed in an interview that she carries Tabasco in her purse. Assuming she’s not carrying the Tabasco around to splash in her assistant’s eyes, that single fact makes Naomi Campbell bulletproof in my book. Because as far as I’m concerned, Tabasco is the stuff of life.

Unfortunately, around Portland, it’s getting harder and harder to find Tabasco in restaurants. I noticed it happening about a year ago. And now it happens all the time. My friend Patrick says it’s because Cholula reps are always hawking their wares to restaurateurs. Whatever the cause, it’s a real problem. Once, if you asked “Do you have Tabasco,” the response you’d get was “Green or Red?” Nowadays, if you ask “Do you have any Tabasco?” you’re likely to hear “No. [Insert sad hipster waiter face]. But I have Cholula!”

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chili lime cholula sounds absolutely disgusting

Who wants your stinking Cholula??  Cholula is fine if you’re putting it on an enchilada or Huevos Rancheros. That’s because if you sprinkle Cholula on something, your food automatically turns into Mexican food. So if you’re trying to go in that direction, it helps to start with Mexican food. Cholula gives off a dull, smoky vibe that falls somewhere between the “Hot” and “Fire” sauces at Taco Bell. I’m not knocking that. There’s definitely a place for Fire sauce, I mean, Cholula, and that place is on a 99 cent bean and cheese burrito.

But you for damn sure can’t put Cholula on a bed of tender, soft-cooked eggs, or sprinkle it in little dots all the way down a slice of crisp bacon. You can’t put Cholula on the crunchy top layer of homemade macaroni and cheese. You can’t put Cholula on pizza, unless it’s taco pizza. Admittedly, that last one is a guess, because I’d never order a taco pizza. That shit is gross.

No, sometimes, Cholula just won’t do. Sometimes, the only thing that will do is that blast of acidic, vinegary heat. That fiery hit of Tabasco.

I told my friend Ethan I was writing this post, and he immediately started in on an irrelevant diatribe against Chipotle guacamole, Hunt’s ketchup, and tomatillo salsas. Which just goes to show that we all have our least favorite condiments. I can’t take Ethan seriously because he hates Tabasco. When I complained that Cholula makes everything taste like Mexican food, Ethan opined that “Mexican food is better than Tabasco food,” which just makes me feel sorry for him.

Anyway, I’m not saying restaurants should ONLY offer Tabasco. I just want them to keep Tabasco in the mix. In case you’re wondering, Tabasco is not paying me to write this post. No, this love is for free.

Until the restaurants awake from their cloudy Cholula haze, I’ll just have to carry my own hot sauce. Which is why, this Christmas, I’m asking for this.

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please let my kids be nerds

At bedtime last night, Finn leaned in close and tenderly stroked my cheek, as he always does when he’s about to ask me to buy him something. “Mama. You know, I don’t have any cool stuff to share for sharing day.” Stroke, stroke, nuzzle, nuzzle. “So, I was thinking…I could buy some crystals. At the crystal store.”

Crystals!! Could thunder eggs and postage stamps be far behind?

Hot diggity. Now we were talking.

I have friends who don’t want their kids to be nerds, or to hang out with nerds. But these friends are going about it all wrong. In my experience, it’s hard to turn out interesting as an adult unless you were a nerd while young, or at least, had friendly, sustained contact with nerds. Don’t believe me? Think of the most outwardly-attractive-yet-inwardly-boring adult you know. I guarantee that person has never been a nerd.

finny bike

Of course, the inverse of that doesn’t work as well. Not all nerds flower into something cool. But look around at your nerdiest friends. Aren’t they often the people you want to hang out with the most? I mean, for short periods of time.

Not to brag, but I was a huge nerd for the majority of my youth. On my first day of kindergarten, I wore an itchy wool dress and a matching hat. A MATCHING HAT. As a new immigrant who barely spoke English, it’s amazing I wasn’t stoned by the other kids. Who cares though. I had no idea how inappropriately I was dressed. Because I was a nerd.

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In 7th grade, my plastic glasses broke and I fixed them with a band-aid, because band-aids are adhesive as shit. In 8th grade I walked down an entire hallway at Meadow Park Intermediate School with the back of my skirt tucked into my tights. I played cello. I wore a Guatemalan braided belt. I’m not Guatemalan. Some of my best friends were teachers. I was a nerd.

But it’s ok. Because nerds are tough. While the popular girls were collecting Esprit bags, I was learning how to develop stuff that would help me later in life, when it really mattered. Like a strong will, to cope with the teasing. Or a sense of humor, which helped me make friends with the other nerds. Somewhere along the way, probably in high school, I stopped wanting to fit in with everyone else, and started wanting to be different. That’s when I learned to embrace the nerd, to become one with it.

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Finn wears glasses and loves karaoke, but, crystals aside, he’s exhibited few other signs of classic nerd-dom. But Tate, he’s got some serious nerd potential. My youngest has an unnatural fascination with ninjas that only seems to be growing with time. All signs indicate that he’ll be the 14-year old with the Bruce Lee obsession who can quote every line from “Enter the Dragon.” When Tate gets dressed, he invariably tucks his t-shirt into his elastic-waist shorts before hiking the whole rig up to his armpits. I sure as hell didn’t teach him that. That’s strong instinctual nerdiness right there.

Tom, as a pale red-headed child with freakishly long limbs, was also a nerd. In fact, from the photos I’ve seen, he may have been a nerd until as recently as 1998. Given that my kids have nerd on both sides, I’m confident that blood will tell.

Yes. My boys have nerd in them, and I can’t wait to see it shine.

how to lie about your shopping problem

When it comes to material goods, Tom’s needs are aggravatingly few. He saves the energy he might spend on coveting things for himself, on me. And by that, I’m not talking about him buying stuff for me. He hasn’t bought me a real gift since I lost the Hermes watch I scored for giving birth to his precious firstborn. No, I refer instead to his constant vigilance in spotting and calling out my new purchases.

“Is that new?” I have grown to hate and fear these three words. Usually when you hear them, they are asked by a friend who is about to validate your purchase by complimenting you. When Tom says the words, they come laden with innuendo, and enough guilt to kill.

I have four methods of dealing with this most annoying of questions. I’m not suggesting that these methods will work for you, but then again, they have served me well in the 15 years I have known my husband. So you might give them a go.

Hypnosis

Your success with this method will vary, depending on your guy’s relative knowledge of fashion trends, and the strength of his memory. Also, your skill at lying. Basically what you have to do is convince the guy that he’s not really seeing what he’s actually seeing.

In this, you will be aided by the fact that most of what you buy looks a lot like something you already have sitting in your closet. So when Tom points to my new black sweater, made of the softest, loftiest merino wool and asks, “Is that new?,” I can look over his shoulder at the nasty old black merino sweater I bought last year, and say, “No, I’ve had this for a year.” The beauty of this method is that in that moment, the hypnosis is working its magic on both of us, because in my mind, the two sweaters really do become one. Then, when Tom’s gone, the one sweater magically separates into two sweaters again. So I’m not really even lying.

This method works especially well with jeans. I could be married to Tom Ford, not Tom Johnson, and he’d still have problems telling the difference between my three pairs of ink blue J Brand skinnies. I mean, sometimes have trouble telling the difference. But that doesn’t mean I don’t need all of them.

Bribery

You can buy your husband’s silence by throwing him a bone, which for me usually involves stopping at H&M on my way out of Nordstrom, to buy a t-shirt that costs $9.90. L’Occitane soaps are also great for this. They cost ten bucks and have the added advantage of being soap, a product your man probably actually uses. And they smell really strong, which seems to have a mildly debilitating effect on my husband that allows me the 8 seconds I need to cram my shopping bags behind the laundry hamper in my closet.

If you’re shopping in the evening, treats work well. Tom gets so happy when I walk in the front door with an Oreo McFlurry that I could be dragging a new Lexus behind me and he wouldn’t notice.

Diversion

Your success with this method will also vary, depending on your guy’s attention span and your proximity to a television. In my house, it works like this.

Tom: “Is that new?”

Yoona: “Is what new?”  (Reaching for remote).

Tom: “Is THAT new.”  (Pointing to new bag).

Yoona: “Is WHAT new?”  (Turns on TV, to Channel 735).

Tom: “Wait a second, is that the Pats game?”

Like taking candy from a baby.

Role Playing

Sometimes Tom actually gets angry about a purchase, and then I have to work extra hard to justify my decision. Last Friday he beat me home and opened a heavy Amazon box to find a new pair of Fryes. While generally clueless about the relative cost of women’s fashions, Tom knows enough about women’s clothes to know how much Frye boots cost. I mean, they cost as much as one pair of his dress shoes, but whenever I say that he lashes out that he buys one pair of shoes every year. Cruel words that always strike me as a non-sequitur.

Anyway, all he saw when he opened that box was a pair of boots. What he did not see was that the boots were the culmination of two years of me searching for the perfect flat black boot. TWO YEARS. He had no idea how many heavy boots I’d had to purchase, then return.

He also had no inkling of the pain and mental trauma I suffered each time that I tried on boots that were unflattering. If you’re a guy, you might think I’m exaggerating, but you can be damned sure that every woman reading this post knows how it feels to try on something that is so bad that it makes you re-evaluate your life and how you’ve been living it. There are certain things you have to be very careful about trying on. Bikinis, natch. Skinny jeans, of course. Crop tops. Puffy sweaters. FLAT BOOTS.

So anyway, I basically had to lay out this entire sob story for Tom until he felt what it was like to live the experience of my search for the perfect flat boot. By the end, I felt like he not only approved of my purchase, but that he wanted me to have them.  Needed me to have them.

And that’s why Tom, and my new boots, are awesome.

fryes

my boots, with the world’s cutest pregnant person

killer tofu

Everywhere you turn, someone is telling you that something you’re feeding your kids is bad for them. Which is fine if your kids are good eaters and you have a host of food options from which to choose. My kids? Left to their own devices, they each eat like twelve foods. Maybe more like six, if you take away the fruit.

One of the things they will both eat, however, is tofu. They will eat every variety of tofu, from silken to pressed. They will eat it in soup, baked, pan fried, steamed, whatever. And that’s good because tofu has nutritious stuff in it, like vegetable protein.

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Anyway, about the tofu. The latest word on tofu is that if you have boy children and they eat too much of it, they will grow breasts. Or something like that. Feel free to Google it—I haven’t, because, okay, I admit it, I’m scared of where “tofu man breasts” will lead me on Google Images. I’ve been afraid of Google Images ever since I Googled “genital warts.” Not that you believe me, but I don’t have genital warts and neither does Tom. I was just curious.

Besides, I have my own thoughts on the latest fear-mongering over tofu, and those thoughts are similar to my thoughts on MSG. Let me just point out that the Chinese have been around for a really long time. And I don’t know any Chinese people who complain about MSG headaches. I also don’t know any Chinese men with breasts.

Well, wait a minute. I know a few Chinese men with breasts, but they’re fat all the way around, and I’m sorry, if you’re a fat man you’re likely to have breasts regardless of your race or how much tofu you ingest. If you need further scientific evidence that it’s ok to eat tofu, I ate a shit ton of tofu growing up and I’m flat as a goddamned board.

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I guess what I’m really railing against is food hysteria in general. We all want to eat healthy. I try to make good choices, and make good choices for my children. But for me, food is not just about sustenance. Food is about taste, memory, pleasure, warmth, happiness. I enjoy nothing more than this loaf of bread with a crock of good butter. Eating bread reminds me of when I was a kid, tucked into my window seat on a rainy day, reading about Heidi and her grandpa and their goats and their tasty milk and cheese.

Nowadays, I feel guilty when I eat bread. And that guilt drives me to eat my croissants in the car like I’m some perv, or worse, to forgo the croissant entirely in favor of “healthy” pap like gummy, reconstituted granola. I dunno. I’m going to die of something, and I sort of doubt it’ll be the bread.**

So about that tofu. I like stir-fries because your kid can help with the washing and chopping. This delicious little stir-fry (you can sub shrimp if tofu is not your thing) makes my family happy. It’s a little spicy but even Tate will eat it, and shamefully, he thinks black pepper is spicy. Also, you might as well prepare your kids’ palates for the global Chinese domination that is coming.

Thanks to the sauce in this stir-fry, my kids will (accidentally) eat the mushrooms, water chestnuts, and green onions in the recipe. Shiitakes, not the benign kind of mushroom. Hot damn! I guess I’m ok risking two tiny sets of man boobs for that.

**I’m aware that certain people, like those with Celiac Disease, can actually die of bread consumption. I’m not making light of bread eating, except as it applies to me.

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MA PO TOFU

Adapted from “Martin Yan’s Chinatown Cooking”

Ingredients:

3 fresh or dried shiitake mushrooms (if dried, soak in warm water for 20 minutes), de-stemmed and chopped

6 oz. ground pork

1 teaspoon + 2 tablespoons soy sauce, divided

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon hot bean paste, black bean sauce, bean chili sauce, or chili garlic sauce (one of these should be available in the “ethnic foods” aisle—we’re getting ethnic, people!—of your grocery store. If you have a choice, go for the bean chili sauce)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/3 cup chopped water chestnuts

1 14-oz. package soft (or silken, or Japanese style) tofu, drained and cut into 1/2 inch cubes

2 green onions, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch lengths

2 teaspoons cornstarch (dry)

2 teaspoons cornstarch, dissolved in 1 tablespoon water

Directions:

1. Marinate the pork: stir the ground pork, 2 teaspoons cornstarch, and 1 teaspoon soy sauce together, let stand 10 minutes.

2. Make the sauce: stir 2 tablespoons soy sauce in a bowl with the sesame oil and one cup water. Set aside.

3. Chop the water chestnuts, mushrooms, green onions, throw them all in bowl and set aside. Get your chopped garlic ready. Make sure your tofu is cut and drained. You want everything chopped before you start a stir-fry, because the actual cooking takes like 4 minutes.

4. Heat a wok, skillet, or cast-iron pan over high heat until hot. Add oil and swirl to coat. Add the garlic and stir fry until fragrant, mybe 20 seconds. Add the pork, whatever bean/chili paste or sauce you are using, and stir fry until the pork is crumbly, 2-3 minutes.

5. Pour the sauce into the pan along with the cut vegetables (water chestnuts, mushrooms, green onions). Slide in your tofu, stir gently or swirl the pan to get the tofu coated with the sauce. Let simmer until heated through, 2-3 minutes. Don’t freak out if your soft tofu starts to break apart. Just be as gentle as you can.

6. Pour in the dissolved cornstarch and cook gently, stirring, until sauce boils and thickens, about 1 minute. If you don’t care if your sauce is runny, you can omit this step.

7. Take off heat. Serve over hot brown rice!

yoonanimous reviews: water bottles

My family has approximately 200 water bottles, and most of them blow. If you’re in the market for one, I’m here to help you narrow the field.

I’ve had a lifelong struggle with water consumption. I know I need 8 cups a day. But I hate drinking liquids. My friend Ryan says that he prefers to drink his calories, in the form of beer. Not me. I prefer to eat my calories, in the form of bratwurst.

While I hate drinking water, I am an eternal optimist when it comes to water consumption. So I have a water tank in my house and fresh water delivered bi-weekly. And in hopes that setting the stage for water consumption will lead to the eventual drinking of water, I buy water bottles. Lots of water bottles.

My ratings are broken down into three categories, and go from a scale of 1-5. Drinkability refers to your ability to actually access the water in the water bottle. Portability refers to the water bottle’s take-it-and-go factor. The Kid Factor measures the bottle’s ability to withstand children, which in my case often depends on the hardiness of the nozzle. My kids are aggressive masticators. Like beavers.

1. The Camelback

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Judging by the selection at REI, the Camelback is the water bottle of choice here in Portland. The Camelback Eddy is hardy and indestructible. It is also large, heavy, and unwieldy, so much so that I feel nervous carrying it by its handle. The bite valves might as well be Haribo gummy bears as far as my kids are concerned. They have chewed through two 3-piece replacement packs with feverish intensity.

But let’s get right down to the nitty gritty about the Camelback, which is that you have to suck so hard on the nozzle to get the water out that it makes water-drinking both difficult and lewd. Tom once wiggled his eyebrows at me while watching me suck on the Camelback. I submit that if your water drinking can put your spouse in a romantic mood, you need a new water bottle.

Drinkability: 1; Portability: 2; Kid Factor: 1. Total: 4/15

2. The Sigg

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I must enjoy the Sigg because I’ve had one since law school. It has a pleasing shape and the seal on that cap is airtight. The lip has a nice curved shape and the flow of water is neither too fast nor too slow. It’s a bit large but it seems much lighter than the Camelback.

The problem with the Sigg and all other stainless bottles is the mystery about what’s inside. I guess it doesn’t matter because you’re just putting water in it. But if I start to think about it, I am uncomfortable with how dirty the innards of my Sigg might be. So I try not to think about it.

Drinkability: 4; Portability: 4; Kid Factor: 3. Total: 11/15

3. The Lululemon POS

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I think this bottle is a knock-off of the Lifefactory bottles that were ubiquitous for a while. It’s made of glass, which feels clean and virtuous, and the glass is encased in a rubber cover so that if you drop it, the bottle, in theory, won’t break. I say “in theory” because I’ve dropped a Lifefactory bottle and it shattered, just like every other glass item I have ever dropped.

I guess if I had to choose one thing that I like about this water bottle, I’d have to say the color. Sigh. I have tried hard to love this water bottle, because my kid gave it to me for Mother’s Day.

And yet, I cannot love this terrible bottle. First, while the cap is presumably airtight if properly sealed, I wouldn’t really know, because I have never properly sealed it, despite taking time out of my schedule one weekday morning to sit down and try to figure out where I was going wrong in my operation of the Lululemon POS.

To compound the problem, if the lid on this sucker isn’t on tight, you’re in for a world of pain, thanks to that wide opening. Which brings me to point number 2: it is impossible to drink water from this bottle without dousing your entire face and possibly your torso. Perhaps I have poor hand-eye coordination. But I have a hard time believing that, because I am very good at ping-pong. Instead, I choose to believe that the design of this bottle is inherently flawed. Also, the bottle is so tall and skinny that it tips over at the slightest hint of wind. Oh, and my kids never, ever choose this water bottle for themselves, because it weighs approximately five pounds. Don’t believe me? Watch.

Drinkability: 0; Portability: 0; Kid Factor: 1. Total: 1/15

4. The Bkr

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The Bkr, like the Lululemon POS, is made of glass encased in rubber. Also like the Lululemon POS, the Bkr is a classic example of form over function. For example, the spout is so small that when I drink from it, I can’t help but imagine that I am a tiny hummingbird using its tiny beak to draw (pollen? honey? dew?) from the stamen of a tiny, tiny flower. The tiny opening also makes it impossible to clean, or fill. If I’m trying to fill it from a water tank I actually have to crouch down and look up into the undercarriage of the water tank to ensure that I have placed the tiny opening of the water bottle directly under the spout, because if I don’t, the water just splashes all over. Drinking water is hard enough. I don’t need obstacles.

Drinkability: 1; Portability: 5; Kid Factor: 1. Total: 7/15

5. The Klean Kanteen

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The Klean Kanteen is a standby in my house and we have many of them. It’s made of light stainless steel, and has a wider opening than the Sigg, which provides a satisfying but non-threatening flow of water. The width of the opening also allows you to look inside and actually clean the bottle. The lid has a handy loop for your finger. The slim shape fits nicely into a bag but is not so skinny that it will tip over. My only complaint with this bottle is that the lid, not being attached to the bottle, tends to go missing. But that’s not the bottle’s fault.

Drinkability: 4; Portability: 5; Kid Factor: 4. Total: 13/15

6. The Crocodile Creek

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I’ve included my wine glass in all these pics to provide scale. As you can see, the Crocodile Creek, being designed for kids, is much smaller than the others. I’ve included it here because it is Tate’s favorite water bottle, and he asks for it by name (“my tiger one”). I think he likes the size of the spout, and that it is easy for him to handle. The small size makes it very portable. It’s very cute to look at. All that aside, if you are older than three, you might be frustrated by the pathetic flow of water, which is akin to what you might experience if someone were to wring a damp washcloth into your mouth. And while your toddler might love it, your older kid will shun it. Finn calls it a baby bottle and says it smells bad. But boy does Tate love it.

Drinkability: 3 (for kids); Portability: 4; Kid Factor: 5. Total: 12/15

7. The Contigo

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Ah, the Contigo. Linds has had one for a year, and she carries it everywhere. She drinks more water than anyone I know. I mean, so much water that it can feel alarming for a non-drinker to observe. Eventually I started wondering if it might be her water bottle. So I finally gave in and ordered one.

Now, my kids and I fight over the Contigo. Because it is an amazing water bottle. First, the size of it is like a slimmed-down version of the Camelback, with all the Camelback’s sturdiness. The nozzle is a hard plastic but it’s not gummy or chewy like the one on the Camelback. Instead, the Contigo nozzle facilitates your intake of the most satisying drink of water you’ve ever had. A steady, continuous stream of hydration. Linds described this water bottle best when she said that it actually makes water taste better.

But that’s not all folks. The nozzle, once locked, is leakproof. I have carried it inside my leather bag for a month with nary a drop spilled. The bottle is also entertaining, thanks to the white button that unlocks the nozzle and flings it into ready position. That’s the one complaint I have about the Contigo–when it unlocks, the nozzle flings a small spray of water in your face. But listen, with the Contigo, it’s all so good that even the spray feels intentional. Like it was designed to heighten your enjoyment of the water.

Drinkability: 5; Portability: 5; Kid Factor: 5. Total: 15/15

The Yoonanimous final rankings:

1. The Contigo (15/15)

2. The Klean Kanteen (13/15)

3. The Crocodile Creek (12/15)

4. The Sigg (11/15)

5. The Bkr (7/15)

6. The Camelback (4/15)

7. The Lululemon POS (1/15)

What have I missed? Do you have a water bottle that you love to hate, or one that beats my Contigo? I’m always on the hunt, and want to hear about it.

downers: boy books

Now that Finn is reading, our house is littered with chapter books. From what I can tell, the offerings for young male readers fall into one of two camps: 1) mind-numbingly dull or 2) soul-crushingly terrifying.

You might think a lot of things in life are boring. But I’m here to tell you that you don’t know shit about boring until you’ve read 72 volumes of the Magic Tree House series. Those books are so bad that they will make you start hating things you used to think were cool, like time travel, Morgan Le Fay, and trees.

I thought I found a way to get around reading the Magic Tree House books by borrowing them on CD and playing them on long road trips. Bad idea, if a human is doing the driving. You’d be better off trying to drive after eating a whole roasted turkey and chasing it with a bottle of Nyquil.

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do not operate heavy machinery while reading

But I’ll take boring over scary, any day of the week. I want to cry when I think that my boys could turn out like the kids in “Captain Underpants,” “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” and “Stink,” who blow up toilets, rob unsuspecting neighbors, and engage in mail fraud. The boys in these books don’t really talk. Instead, they retort, or quip. It’s really hard to keep your kids from saying “stupid” and “idiot” at home when they’re reading those words in books that you’ve bought for them.

As an aside, the effort to stop my kids from saying the word “stupid” reached a nadir last month when my four-year old Tate began saying the word “doopid” as a workaround.

Me: “Tate, what did you say?? Did you just say ‘stupid’?”

Tate: “No mommy.” (Rolling of eyes). “I said DOOPID.”

Point is, I’m done with those crap books. Instead, I’m eager to introduce Finn to the chapter books I loved as a kid. Like the Ramona books, by Beverly Cleary, or the Redwall series, by Brian Jacques. Later, perhaps some Robinson Crusoe or Alexandre Dumas—Athos was such a badass, and Lady de Winter! The best. Anyway, it was with these classics in mind that I bought a copy of “Little House on the Prairie,” and started reading it with Finn three nights ago.

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The good news is that Finn seems to dig the book, in spite of the long paragraphs about the dappled light on the prairie grass, and door carpentry. The bad news is that as a kid, I never realized how old-fashioned the book is in terms of gender dynamics. Ma basically does whatever Pa tells her to do, even though it’s clear from the get-go that Ma is ten times as smart as Pa, and also, not too keen on the idea of a long wagon ride to the middle of nowhere.

Yeah, Ma puts up with a lot. Later in the book they’re building their log house and Pa drops a fucking LOG on Ma’s foot, and Ma has to soak her foot and put on her own bandages while Pa parties with a neighbor and does a bunch of fiddlin’. I mean, if Tom dropped a log on my foot while he was building our log cabin, I…I don’t even know. But know this: I certainly wouldn’t be putting on my own damn bandages. Most likely I’d limp away in anger and then get eaten by a bear. But at least I’d have my self-respect.

Antiquated gender roles aside, Finn’s not the only one who’s digging on this book. The thing about reading Little House on the Prairie as an adult female is that you realize that Pa, being an alpha male, is totally hot. I mean, look at this illustration.

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uh, yes. i’ll take two

Not sure he’s got a ton of brains, but Pa is a doer, and I like that in a man. I also like that he’s a provider. The older I get, the more I want other people to take care of me, because I’m tired. Let’s not forget that when he dropped that log on Ma, Pa was building a log cabin. BY HIMSELF. And when the family was crossing the river in the wagon and they started sinking, he tossed the reins to Ma and jumped in the water and basically pulled the ponies to safety. Hot. If they made this book into a movie today, I’m pretty sure Chris Hemsworth would make an awesome Pa.

But back to the book. When Pa goes hunting with his gun, he gets it done. He PROVIDES. He brings back a prairie dog and two rabbits and some other vaguely rodent-like animal that I can’t recall. All I remember is that Ma makes gravy out of whatever it was.

No one can make cornmeal cakes with prairie dog gravy sound as delicious as Laura Ingalls Wilder. I can hardly wait for the later books when they make baked beans with salt pork. I don’t even know what salt pork IS, and my mouth is watering onto my keyboard right now. Anyway, what was I saying. Right. Pa gets it done for his family. And as an adult female, I really dig that about Chris Hemsworth. I mean Pa.

I’m really excited for the later books. I don’t remember them clearly but I DO remember the TV show, and so I know there’s lots of Mary being blind and Carrie being a rascal and a love interest named…Alfonzo? No. ALMONZO. That’s not a name. That’s a candy bar. But anyway, I’m excited. For Finn.

naked in a korean spa

When I was young, my mom would break out a little red mitt every few weeks and scrub my skin in the tub. The red mitt was like a sandpaper envelope that she stuck her hand into. She’d leave me soaking in the hot water, then pull out an arm, and then start scrubbing the shit out of it. And I’d watch as my dead skin would fall into the tub in gray rolls. Then I’d shower it all off, and feel reborn.

Ok, that’s a lie. When I was a kid, I didn’t feel reborn, I felt harassed—nay, tortured. But now, I crave that feeling. That feeling of being clean, stripped of all the dirt and grime and sweat that a body can accumulate, just from the business of being alive. There’s only one place you can get that feeling as an adult, and that’s at a Korean spa.

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I’ve been to Korean spas in Seoul, LA, and NYC, but I forgot about them until my friend Kathryn mentioned that she’d heard of one near Seattle. Around the same time, my mom and her friends started taking day trips up to Federal Way and would return with pink, glowy skin and bags full of Korean groceries. That’s when I really started paying attention. You know a Korean spa is legit if a bunch of Korean moms will drive two hours to get to it.

Kathryn and I started planning, and made the spa the first stop of a girls’ weekend up in Seattle with Linds. Linds was working on Friday and couldn’t go to the spa anyway because she’s preggers, but it was clearly for the best, because the first thing to know about a Korean spa is that you have to be nude in order to partake. There are numerous hot and cold pools and steam rooms and showers and everyone moves between these things buck naked. I’m not 100% clear on the reasons WHY you have to be naked all the time, but rules are rules. Anyway, Linds would rather pull out her fingernails than be naked in front of other people.

For some reason, I only remembered the nakedness on the day before the spa. I’d be naked all day with Kathryn, whose standards for personal grooming generally seem a lot higher than mine. I texted Linds in a panic.

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Too preoccupied with my own panic, I forgot to mention the nakedness to Kathryn until the drive up to Federal Way. Kathryn is pretty game, but she refused to believe that she would be required to spend a spa day naked with someone she’d have to see again. “Wait,” Kathryn said, shaking her head while navigating I-5. “I’ve been to a Korean spa in Santa Monica and they gave us these pajama things.”

Santa Monica? I didn’t have the heart to tell K that no self-respecting Korean would go for a scrub in Santa Monica. I highly doubted the spa had even been Korean. More importantly, my authority on the matter was being questioned. I couldn’t believe that K had the nads to believe that she knew more about Korean spas than me, a real Korean. It was as if she’d offered me a recipe for kimchee.

“No, you have to be naked the whole time,” I said. “That’s what my Mom said.” I felt proud of myself for leaving off the “So there.” K still wasn’t buying it. “No, but not the ENTIRE time, right?” I stopped being annoyed, and started to be concerned. Because she sounded nervous and unsure. And she was about to be naked in that mind state, for four hours.

Once inside Palace Spa, we were each handed a pink shorty pajama set. “See!” Kathryn said, the relief palpable in her voice. We received a tour of the facilities, and peeked into the wet area. “No clothing allowed in this section,” our guide announced.

Whatever. I was fully on-board with the nudity by this point. None of the women walking around were exactly hard-bodied. Plus I’d noted at check-in that the shorty pajama set had an elastic waistband and a high v-neck. I knew what I’d look like in that outfit, and what I’d look like, wouldn’t be female. I’d happily be naked all day if it meant I could avoid that outfit.

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you’re not entirely naked. you also wear this hat

Kathryn and I spent the next hour getting our skin nice and wet for our scrubs and trying to avoid one another. I steamed in the steam room, sliding around like a trained seal on the wet tile benches. Kathryn alternated between cold and hot plunge pools, where I overheard another woman asking K if she was a triathlete. I felt happy for my friend. Getting asked if you’re a triathlete while you’re naked has to be the equivalent of winning the damn lotto. I wouldn’t know. No one asked me if I was a triathlete.

At 2:00 pm, we met up in the communal scrub room, which consisted of a long row of massage tables. Kathryn was already face down on her table, being pummeled by a short Korean woman wearing nothing but a black bra and panties. I barely had a chance to absorb the indignity of it all before I was told to lay down on my table, by another Korean woman wearing surprisingly saucy lingerie. Don’t get excited. The women have to dress that way because for the next hour, they will be scrubbing your skin with wet mitts and sloshing hot water on you with buckets. Wearing clothes while doing that work would be pointless.

How to describe the scrubbing? Let me just say that at one point, when the lady was working on my shinbone, I imagined my leg gleaming like fine alabaster in the midday sun, to divert myself from shrieking in pain. Worse was when she unceremoniously threw my legs open and got her scrubbing mitt uncomfortably close to my lady parts. She flopped me over and scrubbed my back before shoving her elbows into my neck for some light reflexology. Face down, I wiggled my fingers and felt my fingers graze something. My eyes opened to see what I’d grazed. Little pieces of black stuff all over the table.

My dead skin. Nasty!

No longer part of me! Glorious.

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scrub glow. much easier to attain than pregnancy glow

That night in Seattle, K kept asking me and Linds to feel her elbows. “You guys! Feel my elbows!!” I understood her excitement. Every part of me felt immeasurably softer, cleaner, glowier. Not even Kathryn’s alarming discovery that her spa lady had scrubbed freckles off her chest could kill my buzz.

And all for $99!! We are hooked. And we’ll be back.

the scariest catalog

I realize it’s September 9th and that Halloween is seven weeks away. Try telling that to my kids. It’s like they have a sensor that goes off when they realize they haven’t harassed me about anything new in a while. Or maybe it’s because the wretched Wishcraft by Chasing Fireflies catalog arrived the day after Labor Day.

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It’s called “Wishcraft by Chasing Fireflies” but what it should really be called is “Satan’s Manifesto by Chasing Fireflies.” It’s hard to enjoy the last days of summer when I know that thing is on its way. Because it’s filled to the brim with some scary, scary shit.

My kids don’t think it’s scary. When they see it in the mail they jump up and down as if possessed and then flop down on their bellies, heads braced on elbows, to lick through every page with the focus and concentration I would hope they exhibit at school, but which I fear they only exhibit towards the Wishcraft by Chasing Fireflies catalog. They drag the thing around like it’s a pet. They look at it in the bathtub, pages held high over the water.

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tate explaining to me at 7:15 AM that he needs to check the mailbox because finn told him we are getting ninja costumes today

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me explaining to tate that his brother is a liar

I brought up the catalog to other moms this week. My friend Heather said parents she knows intercept their copies in the mail and then hide them. Other friends just destroy them. Technically these friends may be committing federal mail fraud, if the catalogs are addressed to their kids. But I didn’t have the heart to get all lawyerly, because God knows, I get it. I only wish I’d had the foresight to do something about it.

The day the Wishcraft by Chasing Fireflies catalog comes, the insanity begins. There are other catalogs that will come, but Wishcraft by Chasing Fireflies is the ne plus ultra of Halloween catalogs. The wares are displayed on real child models, mostly blond, and each costume bears a long, corny description that seeks to justify the staggering expense of the wares. There’s nothing like girding your loins to pay $60.00 for an astronaut costume and then realizing the helmet is an additional $48.50. An astronaut without a helmet is basically a repairperson. A homemade helmet on top of a $60.00 astronaut outfit is just sad. I know all this because I wrestled with whether to buy that costume for three weeks last year before deciding to bend Finn’s will into believing that he wanted to be a Stormtrooper instead ($29.99 on Amazon).

I might feel bad about cheaping out on my kids, except that I don’t, because it turns out that Wishcraft by Chasing Fireflies doesn’t want money from my kind. If they did, they wouldn’t offer costumes like this.

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Don’t be the asshole who lets your kid dress up as another RACE. I mean, just don’t. Call me overly PC or whatever, but are there really so few options out there that you need to indulge your child’s desire to dress up in some bastardized version of someone else’s national or racial heritage? I mean, maybe you can dress your kid up as a specific PERSON of another race. Like, I guess, Pocahontas or something. Maybe. No, probably not. Unless you put a nametag on the outfit that says “Pocahontas” or otherwise makes it crystal fucking clear that you are paying homage, not being racist. But that still feels wrong. Maybe even more wrong than no nametag. I dunno. I’m not Native American. But maybe, just don’t do it. And that goes for the rest of your racist family.

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Finn and Tate have their costumes picked out. Black and white ninjas. With all the accessories, the costumes for both kids will cost a neat $150. But don’t worry. I have seven weeks to convince them that they want to dress up as their daddy instead, using his neckties and some of his cufflinks. The nice thing about your kids picking out their costumes seven weeks early is you get to enjoy the magic of Halloween for two months. What could be better?

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sorry kids. mommy needs that money for retinol

sexting for married people

No one ever tells you how hard it is to blog during the summer, when there is life to be lived. When I thought up this post a month ago, Anthony Weiner was big news. What I wanted to say a month ago is this: there are about 20,000 things I’d rather receive via text from my husband before a photo of his penis. As it is, I find my husband’s penis pretty inescapable. I don’t need it following me around in my phone.

Instead of your penis, how about texting your spouse some pics that will really make them happy? Like so.

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“I thought of what to feed the kids and then fed them”

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“Hey, love the new bag! It really fleshes out your handbag options”

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“We’re all packed for the beach. I have towels for the kids and a change of clothes and some healthy snacks. But what am I forgetting? Sunblock? No, got that too”

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“Water! Drank some today!”

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“Tate put his shoes on. By HIMSELF”

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“Noticed the padding in your bra came out in the dryer. So I popped those suckers back in for you”

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“Finally got around to organizing that Tupperware drawer like we’ve been talking about. Felt GREAT and now I’m moving on to the tile grout”

 

 

adios, iPhone

We’ve suffered for a long time at the hands of AT&T. I’m not about using my blog to trash companies, but it’s been three long years of not getting reception in our own house and spending ten minutes with a wailing toddler waiting for the “hippo and dog” YouTube video to load.

Last fall we went to a Blazers game with our friends Dave and Courtney. Tom and I looked up from worrying that neither of us had a single bar on our iPhones (how would the sitter reach us?), to see Dave watching live-streaming ESPN on his Verizon Android. Watching ESPN inside an arena! What the hell. I could not have been more shocked if Dave had started levitating. Tom looked like he was going to cry. From that night on, it was a race to the finish. To the finish of our two-year AT&T contract.

I blamed AT&T, and solely AT&T, for our troubles. But for Tom, the AT&T stink had permeated his iPhone, and he wanted nothing more to do with either AT&T or Apple. For eight months I got to hear him talk about his new phone, the one he would get when our contract was up. “Yoona, it’s a Samsung. Babe, it’s KOREAN. Aren’t you happy I’ll have a Korean phone?” Tom panders to my nationalistic tendencies only when he wants to buy electronics. I remembered him doing the same thing five years ago, when he was making a play for a 54″ flatscreen that promised to overpower our living room and wrestle it into submission. “Yoona, it’s an LG. It’s Korean!! Aren’t you happy we’ll have a Korean TV?”

A month ago, Tom came home with his iPhone, screen shattered. Did he shatter it himself with a hammer, in a moment of frustration? Perhaps. He says he dropped it. We were a month away from the end of our contract. He did his best to hang in, but I felt bad when he started getting bloody cuts on his fingers from the glass.

At the Verizon store, he ran to the Samsung Galaxy 4S on display. “Excuse me,” he said, loudly, to a passing salesperson. “I need to get this phone off this cord so I can feel it in my hand.” The four customers waiting in line before us looked incredulous. I started looking at a tablet and pretended I was shopping alone. It was no use. “Yoona!,” Tom shouted, from across the store. “Yoona!!!” Shit, people were starting to look. The jig was up. “Come here!! Look! It is so cool!!!”

I walked over to see Tom holding a phone that was approximately the size of a paperback novel. It even seemed like Tom couldn’t get his huge mitt comfortably around the thing. “Isn’t it a little big?,” I asked. “No, no, no,” Tom answered. “It’s perfect. Perfect for reading documents.” Right. I started to ask more questions but Tom had already run over to the accessories display to pick out his phone cover. He grabbed a hot pink OtterBox. “I need one of these in case my phone gets wet. Patrick has one. So does Andy.” Patrick is a chef and has his phone near liquids all the time. Andy fishes most days. The most liquid Tom’s phone was apt to get near was a double Americano. Still, it felt cruel to deflate Tom’s excitement.

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After our phones were procured, we left for a weekend with our friends Jess and Brett, at their mountain cabin. On the ride up, I watched from the driver’s seat as Tom continually used his finger to scroll past the same screen, showing a hot air balloon, on his new phone. It was clear that Tom had no idea what to do with his new phone, or how to get past the hot air balloon. I couldn’t resist baiting him. “So what do you like about your new phone?,” I asked. “Everything,” Tom replied, his tone warning me not to press.

“Like what, specifically?,” I asked. Tom looked annoyed. “Well, like how big it is.” I waited for Tom to continue. “And how pink it is.” Technically, he was talking about his phone cover, but I didn’t have the heart to correct him, because by now he was doing a spot-on imitation of Steve Carrell’s character in Anchorman (“I love…lamp“), and I was really enjoying the show.

“Also, I love my OtterBox,” Tom said. He looked at me as if daring me to respond. He must have been provoked by my general demeanor, because suddenly, he came out with fists swinging. “I don’t even know why you got a new iPhone. Apple sends all their money to Ireland. They don’t even pay taxes.” I’d poked the bear and it was poking back! I swallowed my retort that he’d had an iPhone until five hours ago, and let it lie.

Tom’s new phone promises to provide delights in the weeks and months to come. Will Tom use the clip-on belt holder in public, for example. How long will he continue to refer to it as “my Precious,” for another. I may report back.

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