Oversized Weekend in the Carolinas

A couple weeks ago, we celebrated the last days of summer by taking a trip up to Raleigh to visit James. Saturday and Sunday were my first days off in 18 days so I had that extra thrill of freedom as we hit the road Friday night.

Late night driving was an awesome experience for us. We loved the long stretches where we were the only car in sight. We didn’t see the moon… unless you count the eerie glow of the Peachoid which we passed around midnight. By 1 a.m., we hit parts of the highway that were completely blacked out, without lights or reflectors. Except for the headlights, there was only darkness and we were witness to an astonishing view of stars. No photos of this incredible sight since I was driving. Can someone please invent a camera for our eyeballs that takes pictures by blinking??

Despite being highly caffeinated, I needed to crash around 3:30 a.m. So we pulled into High Point to crash for a few hours, then woke up early to visit the World’s Largest Chest of Drawers before breakfast. I’m a sucker for oversized roadside attractions. The giant dresser is nestled in between two very ordinary buildings. It’s three stories high if you can’t tell from my jump to the lowest drawer (I’m 5’2”).

From there it was a pretty easy drive to James’s place in Raleigh. While his mom continues her recovery, James is crashing at his brother’s place and taking care of the family dog, Nuggs. Nuggs is a sweet and handsome dude but this is the only photo out of several where he isn’t a blur with crazy eyes. Haha, had to wait til he’d worn himself out.

I’m a sucker for roadside attractions so we were really psyched to see our first real life Muffler Man in Raleigh. What an awesome beardy giant! I wonder what he once held…

Here we are with our dinner cocktails at Lucky 32, James’s favorite restaurant (a dark and stormy for me, a boozy rosemary-lavender tea for Dean). I ordered their black bean cakes with corn relish, kale greens, and rice. So good! Other delicious food enjoyed: mock chicken and biscuits at Remedy Diner (we brunched on their patio with green anoles on the fence behind us); caramelized banana french toast at Fiction Kitchen (divine!).

We said, ‘later’ to James (already miss him!) and picked up some snacks for the drive home. Deep fried peanuts and okra chips for me; steak flavored chips and Cheerwine for Dean. We stopped off at the Peachoid again and ended up making it back to Athens around bedtime.

Tiny Pet Portraits!

I’m excited to say I opened an Etsy shop with a few listings for custom pet portraits! If you’d like to get a personalized pet portrait for yourself or as a gift, you can use the code BEPAWSITIVE for free shipping this month. Also feel free to ask me about trades if you’d rather barter. :)

Here are some of the pet portraits I’ve made for friends, co-workers and family, starting with the most recent. It was fun to try out different kitty faces (and different pens).
maeve, cocoMaeve, a sweet-faced tabby, and Coco, the mama Shih Tzu

winston, roxyWinston, a regal Himalayan, and Roxy, a tough lady who was rescued from a cement mixer (!!)

hugo, king jerryHugo, the handsome corgi, and King Jerry Snugglepants, the hedgie

mannix, quentin, harveyThe black cat brothers Mannix and Quentin, and Harvey the gentleman ginger.

Man, it’s really great to have time to paint cute animals. I’d wanted to open a li’l Etsy shop for years but never felt brave enough. For some reason, I thought it was this daunting venture for super original, top-tier craftsman stuff. Now I think of it as a no-pressure spot for simple ‘n’ sweet things too.

Summery Summary

Woah! Where did the time go? Every summer seems to fly by faster than the last and this was an especially eventful one for me ‘n’ Dean. It feels like we just left our little apartment in Seattle yesterday.

First, Dean and I hit our anniversary this past August! To celebrate seven years of happy coupledom, I commissioned Marc to draw an unflattering portrait of us. Haha, I love it so much! We went out for dinner at The Grit but we’re pretty boring so most of our date nights have been spent at home, watching movies and drinking new-to-us beers. It looks like we’ll be losing our parking spot whenever the UGA Bulldogs play a home game so we’ve planned some hideout dates at ‘Creepy IHOP’ on those nights. We’re following the Southeastern Conference ‘cos, ya know, we live here now, but I’ll always think the best thing about living amidst Dawg-mania is our cute, li’l neighbor. She is a blur of adorableness.

I lucked out with a job at the alt-weekly paper which has its offices in a beautiful former funeral parlor. There’s a squirrel head that looks in from the porch and my new co-worker lent me these sweet Sparkplug books (lookin’ forward to the next issue of Reich!). I’m still working at the library too which I continue to love. They made a typo on my name tag so I think of myself as a master Sheph on the weekends. Obvs, I’m way too shy for both of these rad jobs.

This past weekend, Dean and I checked out an incredible digger yard sale. Lately, I’ve been snapping up a lot of stuff with ‘pink think‘ ads. The Movieland magazines are particularly novel to me ‘cos they have a bunch of ads on weight gain for women (“If you want to be popular… you can’t afford to be SKINNY!” “Learn how to gain welcome weight and keep it!”). Also, watermelon and wildlife- two of my favorite things every summer.

Lastly, my best bud James has been down to visit us a couple times. He is the reigning king of subtly-goofy photo faces and we miss him all the time. He made me a giant pot of delicious curry-chili which I still have several servings of in the freezer. Man, we are over the moon excited about visiting him this weekend in North Carolina! James and I were planning to open Etsy shops but he decided not to do his. I’ve been drawing tiny pet portraits so I might still go ahead with mine. Here are some I made for Seattle pals: Jerry Snuggle Pants the hedgie, Harvey the ginger, Mannix and Quentin the black cat brothers, and Hugo the corgi.

So, it’s been an alright summer for us. Some difficult stuff has come up: James’s mom was hospitalized back in May so he moved in with family in North Carolina; Jan, Dean’s mum and my mum-in-law, was diagnosed with cancer and is currently undergoing treatment; and Dean’s job transfer fell through while we were in the process of moving (he took a huge demotion but we know that’s insignificant compared to sick family). Also, this summer has been marred with a hellish stream of terrible news so there’s definitely that. That stuff is sad and it’s weird to gauge personal happiness considering but we try to be optimistic. Dean and I have had a lot of bright spots over the past few months. We get to spend evenings and meals together, something we couldn’t do before, and living in Georgia is still a cool adventure to us. We can’t wait for fall. :)

Deep South by Sally Mann

“Flannery O’Connor said the South is Christ-haunted, but I say it’s death-haunted. The pictures I took on those awestruck, heartbreaking trips down south were pegged to the familiar corner posts of my conscious being: memory, loss, time, and love.”

Deep South caught my co-worker’s eye when it came in through library returns. She recommended it to me and I borrowed it myself last week. 65 beautiful, black and white photographs that Sally Mann handpicked. It’s a dark and softly focused collection — wholly different from the bright, sharp images I’m usually drawn to. There really is something magical and haunting about them. The size and quality of the book left a maximum impact on me but you can see some of the artist’s lowland landscapes on her site as well.

Book Log, 4

Ooof. I planned to keep a record of every book I read but I’m so far behind now, I’ll just quickly catch up with a few that I liked best.
The Little Friend by Donna Tartt
This was my first time reading Donna Tartt and, good grief, I’m glad I finally did. The Little Friend is her second novel, which is partially about the unsolved murder of a 9-year-old boy but mostly about the events over a decade later involving his little sister. Harriet (the sister) is an overly serious, smart, and gutsy 12-year old who decides to spend her summer finding her brother’s killer. Her top suspect is Danny, a former classmate of the deceased brother, and she is relentless in tracking him. In turn, Danny becomes increasingly paranoid about a kid following him around as he tries to move drugs. There are some really funny moments (shoulder pad snake bites!) and some really suspenseful moments, however, the magic of the book is in Tartt’s beautiful, gloomy descriptions. Her ability to construct flowery wording for everything from housework to meth-heads is nothing short of brilliant. The strength of her writing hits doubly hard when applied to Harriet’s losses and the general shittiness of adults.

Insatiable by Asa Akira
Moving on to a woman of very different acclaim, I picked up Asa Akira’s memoir, Insatiable: Porn – A Love Story. Akira opens with a description of an on-set sex scene that leaves nothing to the imagination and moves breezily around her early thieving days as a prep school kid in Manhattan, to a dominatrix, to an award-winning porn actor. I think anyone looking for gritty insight into sex culture would be disappointed but I found her positive perspective in the porn industry very refreshing. And very, very funny. There are countless laugh-out-loud parts of the book (‘there’s no ‘i’ in gangbang’), and her rad sense of humor helps maintain an enjoyable tone while never glossing over hardships such as marital issues and jail time. I wish I heard from more Asian American women in other entertainment fields who were this cool and confident.

S.F. #3 by Ryan Cecil Smith
Ah, yet another cartoonist I’m getting into late. The good guys, Space Fleet Scientific Foundation Special Forces (S.F.S.F.S.F.), are at war with the bad guys, the Pirate Nation. There is so much goofiness and awesomeness crammed into this space adventure I don’t even know what else to say except that it is delightful. Highly recommended for sci-fi nerds and comics readers of all ages.

Life Lately

Summer has been treating us well. Lots of sunshine-y, bird-chirpy mornings, and the easy pace of a college town without students. Dean and I have been waiting until dusk to venture out when the Georgia heat is just right and you can see pops of fireflies. I’m working two jobs now, one at the public library which I love, and one as a typist which I only dislike ‘cos I’m lousy at it. Currently, we’re all about the World Cup, looking for secondhand furniture, and, ya know, enjoying all this time we get to spend together.

Early morning Wizzywig and tea while Dean sleeps in|Estate sale purchases- take a spin in our dentist assistant chair!|Breakfast on the floor before we got a table|Picked up some new titles at Bizarro-Wuxtry- all excellent

Snowpiercer at Ciné- the bonkers and marvelous action movie of my dreams!|Finished Donna Tartt’s The Little Friend- a beautiful, gloomy read for summer|Got a mint condition blue velvet sofa from Vic’s Vintage- before this, we sat on our sleeping bags|4th of July sparklers in the parking lot

AthFest! Elf Power covering ‘Needles in the Camel’s Eye’ and Kishi Bashi looping and layering. In between sets, we stopped into Mini Gallery where we met Missy Kulik and her partner (gah, realized too late I didn’t get his name). Missy and I have a couple of the same friends so that was pretty neat. We have to stop in and buy some zines from her soon. :)

And we went into Atlanta to see Damon Albarn and The Heavy Seas where I just about died of happiness. Friendly crowd, low-key set. Mostly new solo album songs, some Good, the Bad & The Queen, Gorillaz, and the Blur b-side ‘All Your Life’- all perfect. Afterwards, Dean and I went out for a very late dinner at R. Thomas Deluxe Grill. The food is delicious and I love that the owner takes care of geriatric parrots. They seemed content and well-cared for.

Custom Chucks: Birds and Dogs

Right before moving, I got to paint up some Converse hi-tops for the Fanta Kickstarter (man, some of the rewards for that are so good. Those badass t-shirts!). The last time I painted a pair of chucks was over two years ago and I had a lot of fun making these. Makes me wonder why I’m so lazy and don’t craft more often. :)

This pair was for a gal who requested her German shorthaired pointers leading armies of unicorns and dragons. I fell short of a full-on magical battle but Gustav and Grumbles (great names, right?) still get to leap into action. One has a unicorn on the inner side, the other has a dragon.

And this pair was for a gal who has barn swallow tattoos and wanted sneakers with that same, traditional style. I’m almost completely ignorant on tattoo symbolism but it’s something I’d like to look into one day- sailor tattoos especially.

Southern Living

Athens, Georgia has been our home for about two and a half weeks now. Little by little, we’re furnishing the apartment and I started a new job last week so things are goin’ well. Still, we’re homebodies and slow adapters. The most excitement we’ve seen so far is our ill-timed walk through a torrential thunder storm and watching the last two seasons of The Wire (why did we wait so long?!). Haha, we should really force ourselves to explore our new town soon.

Lazy, patio dinner at Big City Bread. Grilled cheese for Dean, hummus and roasted veggies for me.

Sidewalk Yoda

The bottle cap truck! Speaking of, Dean and I really like our local bottle shops. I’m trying to find a new amber ale to fill the Mac & Jack’s sized hole in my heart.

One of many beautiful plots at the Athens Botanical Gardens. Wow. This is one of the most impressive public spaces I’ve seen. Just down the road from us and well worth a suggested $2 donation.

Cute garden pal

East Coast Road Trip

May has been an incredible month for us. Our last week in Seattle was good (thank you, wonderful friends!) but it was also hard for me to do anything but worry about the big trip. Damnit, I always waste so much time worrying. Our move could not have gone smoother. First, we flew to my mom’s in Upstate New York. She gave us her old car (so grateful for this huge gift!) and we had a few days to see some family and friends. Then we hit the road, taking I-79 down through Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The roads were practically empty and the scenery was sublime. It’s our second road trip together (both this year) and I can’t wait for the next one.
The Apple Farm in Victor, New York. Growing up, I loved picking apples here and getting cider and donuts afterwards.

The Lilac Festival in Rochester. We went with my mom, Aunt Kyle, and Uncle Bob. The flowers were lovely and seeing my mom and aunt sample all the wine was pretty great too.

I definitely want to go back and spend some more time in Pittsburgh one day. We hid out from some heavy rain (and eventually hail) at Burgatory. Their cashew lentil burger is magic and Dean says his shake was pretty awesome.

Phone snaps: black coffee and dry toast at Waffle House | vandalizing a scenic lookout | the Gaffney Peachoid!

We drove by hours of these green mountains in West Virginia- one of the prettiest parts of the country I’ve ever seen.

More of those magnificent mountains, even prettier veiled in morning fog.

And finally, we rolled into Georgia.

Counting New York, we hit seven states and managed to visit James who’s staying with family in Raleigh. The trip kinda felt like a really late honeymoon for me ‘n’ Dean- just the best.

Seattle City Guide

Dean and I left Seattle at the beginning of the week and closed a huge chapter of our lives. We’ll be back to visit, of course, but it was tough saying ‘goodbye’ to our wonderful friends and a city we’ve grown to love so much. I don’t believe in the Seattle Freeze, this is the friendliest town I’ve ever lived in. Here’s a long list of my favorite places… I’m sure I missed a ton.
kerry park-seattleDowntown|Belltown
The Seattle Public Library, central branch: This library totally rules. Attend any number of their free events with novelists, cartoonists, and journalists. Take advantage of the hold system. Enjoy the cafe. The building is composed of ten impeccably designed floors, the coolest being the Red Hall. Interesting fact: I always thought the Rem Koolhaus design looked like a shiny, smooshed skyscraper but my friend got a job here and told me it’s supposed to be a stack of books.
Pike Place Market: Hit up Frank’s Quality for the freshest groceries and ask Chaz what’s good- he’s a stand-up guy. Three Girls Bakery for the best loaf in the city, the Fremont sourdough. Cinnamon Works for any of their amazing treats- I have a weakness for their enormous vegan snickerdoodles. MarketSpice for any spice, tea, or cocoa (love the hand-drawn labels!). Down and around the way, is the gum wall, a prime photo op for visiting dignitaries. Last, nothing brightens up a day in Seattle like a big, bright, and CHEAP bouquet of flowers from one of those middle stalls.
Seattle Art Museum: a great space. The permanent collections are wide-ranging and the special exhibits have featured everything from Michelango’s shopping lists to Comme des Garçons dresses. If you can’t spring the $20 for a ticket, check out the SAM on Free Museum Day (first Thursdays).
Cinerama: a first-class movie-watching experience. Doesn’t hurt that the seats are way more comfortable than the average theater seat and the concessions are reasonably priced (even the coffee they serve is good!).
The 5 Point Cafe: a beloved dive bar and diner, open 24-hours. Dean and I have lotsa fond memories of going here when we lived nearby. Pints of Manny’s and 1 lb of cheese fries. I was pleasantly surprised to see new management had added tofu scrambles to the menu.
Shorty’s: a bar with a large collection of terrifying clown art, a nice variety of pinball, and hot dogs (and not dogs!). Sit at a table that’s fashioned from an old pinball machine!

Queen Anne|South Lake Union|Eastlake
Uptown Cinema/SIFF: two awesome movie theaters, one on Queen Anne and the other in Seattle Center. Almost everything they show is worth watching.
The Vera Project: an all ages music and event venue. Teen volunteers run most everything from concessions to sound. I bet it’s the only place you can see a band and buy your date airheads candy.
Bamboo Garden: The comfort of Chinese takeout, veganized (minus the fortune cookies). I’m a glutton for greasy, fried comfort food and any entree here lasts me two meals.
Vivace at Alley 24: Vivace has a few locations but I prefer this one because it’s rarely ever crowded. I’m no coffee expert but the baristas are terrific and the drinks are high quality.
Molly Moon’s: I don’t even eat waffle cones but the scent never fails to draw me inside. Their flavors are delicious and creative: earl grey, honey lavender, vegan salted caramel. Grab a scoop to-go and walk over to…
Kerry park: for breathtaking views of the city. This is a small lookout point but it’s one of the best spots to watch the sunset (or even right after the sun sets like the photo I snapped for this post).
Portage Bay: It’s loud and there’s a line but brunch does not disappoint. They have well-done classics and options for everyone’s diet. I’m delighted by the breakfast bar where you can dress up your pancakes with a mountain of toppings.
The Lo-Fi: The Lo-Fi has had various Britpop dance nights so they are eternally my favorite venue in the city. I liked to kill time in what we called ‘the Bladerunner room’ and take a photo strip in the black and white photobooth.
Black Lodge: The walls are painted with trippy art, there are skulls by the curtains, and there’s a punk rock dog who will keep you company if you’re going to a show alone.

Capitol Hill|First Hill|Central District
Elliott Bay Books: a beautiful bookstore. The shelves are peppered with ‘employee picks’ and those recommendations have never steered me wrong. The cafe is lovely too.
Atomic Cosmetics: a glittery paradise selling toxic-free, long-lasting makeup. Dr Jen is delightful and can mix up a foundation to perfectly match any skin tone. The cosmetics of choice for Seattle’s superstar drag queens.
Central Cinema: a movie theater where you can order drinks and dinner!
Chop Suey: a music venue with a giant Chinese dragon hanging from the ceiling. I’ve had nothing but positive experiences at shows here, mostly bands but one memorable author reading too. They also host Talcum, a super fun soul dance night.
Neumos: another pretty good music venue, conveniently located next to Pike St Fish Fry. In the basement is Barboza. Before Barboza, our friend hosted Dirt Bag Prom down there- it one of the first dates I went on with Dean. Bwah.
Rancho Bravo: Filling, tasty Mexican food. I think this is the best bang for your buck on the hill. Pozole, meaty burritos, and horchata for James. Veggie tacos and Mexican Coke for me.
Molly Moon’s: Ok, I already listed Molly Moon’s but if you eat at Rancho Bravo, you can get dessert here!
In The Bowl: Asian vegetarian cuisine. Their spicy coconut fried rice is the stuff of dreams and their soups will rejuvenate the soul after a chilly, rainy day. Aaand they have my favorite bathroom in the city- definitely check it out.
Plum Bistro: a pricey but thoroughly impressive vegan restaurant. Everything I’ve tried has knocked my socks off. Even Dean digs their mac ‘n’ yease.
Cafe Flora: my favorite place to brunch. The service is friendly and the building is sunny. Get the hoppin’ John fritters: black-eyed pea cakes, smoky collard greens, and tofu subbed for cheesy grits. It’s also right across the street from…
The Arboretum: a 230-acre park by Lake Washington where you can take a nice walk after brunch and booze to admire plants, ducks, and cute dogs. If you’ve got extra time and cash, check out the Japanese Garden.
Mystery Coke Machine: a vending machine off of Broadway where all your options are a mystery. The mystery! The thrill!
Red Light: a vintage clothing shop with clothing arranged by decade and half of the basement devoted to costumes.

University District|Maple Leaf
Scarecrow Video: truly one of Seattle’s gems. Scarecrow carries over 100,000 movies in various formats. You can rent an all-region DVD player or VHS player if you don’t have one. The folks who work here are dedicated to film.
Wayward Cafe: I read a Yelp review that described this place as Vegan Denny’s which it totally is… but way better than Denny’s. Veganized versions of all the best breakfast comfort foods.
Violet Sweet Shoppe: a vegan bakery located next to a butcher. Anyone with a sweet tooth would find something to drool over. The tarts and cakes are works of art and there are non-dairy shakes.
Samurai Noodle: I’d never had traditional ramen before and it was a revelation. Haha, now I don’t eat traditional ramen but I like the vegan version at this location. Hit up happy hour for a sweet deal on an appetizer and sake.
Chaco Canyon: healthy, organic, locally grown food and faaahncy juice.
Chang’s: the finest Chinese food outside of the ID. I lived for their lunch specials and am currently on the lookout for anything close to their handmade noodles. Ugh, so good!
Rooster’s Espresso: always a treat to get an afternoon coffee at Rooster’s.
Math ‘n’ Stuff: an excellent, independent shop full of math related-products and nerdy tabletop games.

Al’s Tavern: Honestly, we only went once but all our Seattle pals are fans so it seems right to include Al’s. The bartender has a strong pour on wells and the beer’s served in mason jars. And there’s pool and video games. It’s super cheap but bring cash!
Mighty O Donuts: world’s most delicious donuts. Especially the french toast, bunny whiskers, and cocoloco flavors.
Tractor Tavern: I think it’s unusual how little time I spent in Ballard. When I did go, it was usually to see a show here where I always had a good time.
Golden Gardens: a fantastic park with a real beach, hiking trails, and playground. Hang out with friends around a fire pit and enjoy the views.
Gas Works Park: a former coal plant turned into a park. It’s pretty cool to see old machinery on display and the old boiler house as a picnic area. You can fly a kite on top of the hill and take in the view of Lake Union.
Archie McPhee: a toy and gag gift shop. There’s a bathtub full of finger tentacles, yodeling pickles, taxidermy eyes, horse head masks, and a photobooth. I knocked out a big chunk of my holiday shopping list here.

International District
Uwajimaya/Kinokuniya: While there are cheaper grocery stores in walking distance, Uwajimaya seems like the biggest and easiest to navigate. As a bonus, it has a nice food court and Samurai Noodle location in the same building. Attached is Kinokuniya, a bookstore with contemporary books from all over, as well as kawaii toys, and stationery.
Daiso: like a Dollar Store for random, cheap, awesome things. Most items are $1.50: mug tops shaped like cat faces, erasers shaped like food, fun notebooks, and washi tape.
Panama Hotel Tea House: a lovely place for a pot of peppermint tea and a book. There’s are some glass slats in the floor at the back where you can see some of the possessions stored by Japanese Americans sent to internment camps (not sure if there are replicas mixed in). Sad and fascinating to see.
Goodwill Outlet: All the runover and/or rejects from the other Goodwills are sold here, about 49cents per pound. The deepest of deep discounts! If you like digging and don’t mind dirt, you can leave with an armful of treasures for just a coupla bucks. Keep out of the way of any aggressive regulars and, tho I never bothered, it’s a good idea to wear gloves.
♥ALL THE FOOD: there are too many good places to eat. Too many!

West Seattle/Georgetown
Junction Beer: you can drink beer at the bar or you can take a pint with you while you shop their 1,300 domestic and imported beers (there’s a pint holder in the cart!).
Katsu Burger: panko-breaded burgers with more vertical height than any burger should have. I like to get the honey tofu patty with sriracha and nori fries. Drooool.
Easy Street Records: a good record shop and a good cafe for brunch. I’m sorry I never got to meet the guy who paints the record covers on the wall and made all the cool displays. Also sorry the Lower Queen Anne location had to close.
Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery: Only my top spot on the list! The regular readings/signings/screenings/etc are all worth checking out. Don’t forget the damage room for killer deals and make sure to talk to Larry who’ll give you great recommendations and tell you the best stories.
Smarty Pants: No amount of praise could do these sandwiches justice. Besides the food, a waitress once made me a hot toddy when I was under the weather- loyal customer for life. :)

See you on a future vacation, Seattle!


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