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Here I Come, From The United States

HomeFrontHall

Recorded in / Translated from Dutch: Libelle Magazine

(Nr. 45/3645 – November 5, 2015

Reporter: Karolien Joniaux. Photos: Ann De Wulf.)

~

Here I come from – The United States

pp 78-79

Libelle

 

Jun (40) swapped out the bustle of the big city for the peace and warmth of Flemish village life.

Jun lived from thrill to thrill. She had a rough time at first, with the slow pace here. Then she realized how much pleasure was to be had with a life like this.

Who is Jun Song?

JunLibelle

Jun Song was born in 1975 in South Korea, but starting at the age of four, grew up in New York where her parents owned a fruit and vegetable store. In her 20s, she climbed the ladder in the banking sector on Wall Street and even acquired some national fame being on Big Brother – eventually winning. Five years ago she met Flemish Davy, and it turned her world upside down as she traded in her busy single life in a cosmopolitan city for a rural storybook life in Evergem. Three years ago, their son Noah was born.

She has 25,000 followers on Twitter – a result of her time on Big Brother which gave her a glimpse of the American celebrity life. And yet lives Jun (pronounced ‘June’) in all peace and anonymity now. In our country. “What’s great about Belgium is that no one can cares that I was on some tv program. And so it should be. My time Big Brother encompasses but three months in my entire life. It is but one experience in so many.”

How did your ‘ordinary’ life in America look like?

“As a child I was given a strict Korean upbringing. My father embraced life in the US with open arms, but my mother still held on to her homeland. At home I was raised in the Korean language and Christian religion, and Korean rules had a prominent place. In my adolescence, I tried to rebel against my Korean roots and tried to even turn my back on it. When I moved out of my parents’ home when I was nineteen, it was considered a disgrace to the family. You just don’t do that, especially as a girl. But for me it felt like a statement. I wanted my parents understand that I did not fall under just one flag. I did not want to be seen as just Korean or American, but as an independent woman.”

You went to work on Wall Street, the symbol of capitalist America. Was that a part of your rebellion?

“I chose indeed the radical ‘American way’. In the 90s, when I first started working, the banking sector really was full of the stereotypes you saw on television. It was a really a man’s world where money, cigars and sexual harassment were the norm. I knew that I, as one of the few Asian women in the banking industry, was seen as sex symbol, but it didn’t bother me at that time. I was taking part in meetings with some of the best brains in the financial world, and meeting people who had more money than I could have ever imagined. I jumped from one adrenaline rush to the other. I really liked that world.”

And yet you finally chose a different road.

“As a result of the financial crisis of 2008, I lost my job. I decided to change my life’s direction: perhaps teaching English in Paris? Or perhaps enrolling in culinary school? I was up for anything. But then in my travels I met Davy, and this was something I had no planned at all. As soon as I saw him, I knew that he was the one.”

Did you settle immediately into a life in Belgium?

“To be honest, I knew nothing about Belgium. I only knew about ‘Belgian waffles’. I even had to look at a map to know exactly where it was (laughs). But as soon as I saw how small your country was, I got excited. This is what I wanted: To depart from New York – not because I hated the city, but because I had done everything I wanted, and I was ready for a new adventure.”

Your new life is the complete opposite of the old. Big city to small village.

“After living my whole life in apartment buildings, this was refreshing. As a child I had always fantasized: ‘When I grow up and get married, I’ll live in a house with a cute garden’. My own fairy tale. In the matter of one day everything just fell into place.”

~

pp 80-81

libelle - page 2

HOME IN KOREA, NEW YORK AND EVERGEM

Can the reality match the fantasy?

“I always remain realistic. Davy was no knight on the white horse (laughs). At the time I left New York behind me, I knew it would not be so simple to go from my single ‘Sex and the City’ -life to family life. And indeed, there were times when I had doubts: Can I be a good wife? Can I adjust to life here? And ultimately, can I live a Belgian lifestyle?

Does it differ so much from the American lifestyle?

“Yes of course. In particular, the slow pace of life here is what I had to get used to. I remember the first time at the bakery where everyone waited single file until it was their turn. I thought: What is this? What’s taking so long? In New York you just barge your way to the counter and whoever gets there first ‘wins’. If you go somewhere and have to wait too long, you call for the manager and demand an explanation. When I first got here, I thought constantly ‘Come on, let’s go!’ but then one day I realized: Why the hurry? I’m not actually in a rush? Nowadays, I enjoy taking the time to talk to the baker about how our weekends were, and how my son this year started kindergarten. I can do this.”

Do you get more done in a day in New York than you do in a day in Evergem?

“Actually less, and that it is surprising. It’s as if time itself slows. In other parts in the US it might be different, but if you live in the city that never sleeps, it is totally normal to get shopping done at eleven o’clock at night, or answer emails in the dead of the night. Day and night, in the week and weekend, running into people other a lot more. Of course here there are also people who work at night, but generally there is more structure in the days and it pays off. You get the most important things done. Although I have seen in the last five years changes that are happening: things like Panos or Starbucks give you the feeling that you must always be on the go, always busy and rushed. Little by little, Belgium is becoming more like the US.”

Is that a good thing or not?

“On the one hand, it is super easy to, at any time to find what you need. I remember when I was pregnant and at night I’d have a sudden craving for a milk shake. In New York all you’d have to do is run to the corner and buy what you want, or you order it online and within an hour it’s at your door. Not so here in Belgium. In the middle of the night I had to make my own milkshakes (laughs). But these things that I missed in the beginning, I now cherish: The fact that people have the opportunity to sleep at night, the quieter pace, the quality time available for friends and family. It’s as if the priorities are different. So. No, I do not want Belgium to be more like The U.S. There is really something special to this country.”

To what extent do you instill American tradition in your son?

Typical holidays like the 4th of July, Halloween and Thanksgiving have a permanent place in our life. Noah is now three and he understands the significance of Thanksgiving already. And he knows perfectly that he must find the wishbone in our stuffed turkey. I find it really important to pass on both American and Korean traditions too. And because we are the only ones who celebrate them around here, it feels like our own personal holidays.

Can Noah grasp all his different roots? Does he realize that there are more worlds out there than Belgium?

“We Skype in the evenings with my mother and Noah does know that she lives in another country. But next year he will really be aware more than the first time, what the US is, as we’re making a trip for my brother’s wedding. And the next step is a visit to Korea. At this moment we are raising Noah bilingually (Dutch and English), and people ask why we don’t include the Korean language. We will perhaps later, but for me that is not now a priority. I think it is important that he has an idea of his various roots, but above all I want for him to grow up as a Belgian. I would feel awful if he grew up feeling like he was an outsider or a misfit. He must be grounded in his Belgian roots and feel at home here. Later he can spread his wings and move about as he wants.”

And you? Do you feel like you’re an outsider?

“On some days sure. Belgians are very warm and friendly, but at the same time very reserved. They fall back into their small circles, of childhood and lifelong friends, and it is difficult to penetrate. Also, very often, I was seen as someone who was here temporarily. But I followed courses to learn Dutch, and I opened my own business, a Korean takeout restaurant, and try to prove that I’m serious about making a life here.

Your life story reads like a book with different characters: The girl with the strict Korean upbringing, the girl in her 20s with a wild American life and now the mother and her family in Evergem. Which of them is the real Jun?

“At this moment I am more ‘me’ than ever. I have for a long time searched for who I am and what is important to me. In New York I didn’t have enough room to find myself. But that does not mean that I regret anything I’ve done or decisions I have made. On the contrary. I am proud of my previous life. My career on Wall Street, my participation on Big Brother, the move to Belgium, the start-up of my own restaurant… Even though all these choices seem miles apart, there is a common thread: as soon as I see an opportunity, I go for it.”

That is very American, right?

“Absolutely. I’m referred to as the ‘Crazy American’ here (laughs). They say I’m crazy. Firstly, because I am American and Americans are by definition crazy. And then I’m the American who left New York to come and live in Belgium. You have to be pretty crazy (laughs).”

Do you imagine that in the future, you will again change gears completely, and take another big jump in your life?

“My ultimate dream is to be a writer. For years now I’ve been running my own blog, jundishes, and it brings me great joy. If I could just sit and write all day every day then that’s what I would do. Sitting at a desk in Evergem, this would be my ideal spot, I feel good here. I believe that the biggest change in my life is still yet to come, and not in where I am or who I am, but what I will do. And so when I see that opportunity one day, I will seize it.

~

5 QUICK QUESTIONS

 

What did you first notice upon arriving here?

“That people take the time to sit on a terrace for some relaxation and quiet cup of coffee. Everything In New York is ‘to go’.”

What American ways do you hold on to?

“I always make a hot breakfast like ‘bacon and eggs’. Bread smeared with Nutella you won’t see in my home in the mornings. Also, I still keep up with my favorite reality shows.”

What do you miss finding in the supermarket?

“Bagels! And maple syrup for my pancakes. So I just make syrup myself, as I do my own barbecue sauce.”

The most beautiful spot in Belgium?

“The Sint-Michels Bridge in Ghent. I saw the city from that bridge the first time I visited Ghent, and I still get goosebumps. It looks almost fake, kind of like something out of Disney World, with the trees, and the Graslei and the beautiful architecture of buildings behind.”

What is your favorite Dutch word?

“Wablieft – just because it sounds so ugly. And that for such a polite question (“Excuse Me?”)! They should have come up with something a little nicer really.”

~

Recorded in / Translated from Dutch: Libelle Magazine

(Nr. 45/3645 – November 5, 2015,

Reporter: Karolien Joniaux. Photos: Ann De Wulf.)

~

Thanks for reading everyone!

And Thank You Libelle!

Always dishing,

Jun

Fuck Cancer Says This Cat Lady

SushiMac

I actually started writing this blog over two weeks ago on October 20th, and it’s right there in the fancy history-tracking feature on this thing.

Screen Shot 2015-11-06 at 1.56.13 AM

I just didn’t feel much like finishing it, or blogging at all for that matter, since.

I made revision after revision and just couldn’t bring myself to publish any of it, and not because I had a hard time admitting I was officially a cat lady. It was because shortly after finishing what I thought was a great blog, I received some very shocking news and it shook me to my core. It’s been a while since I’ve felt like this. And I’ve been struggling with lots of emotions these last few weeks, both bad and good and the fifty shades of moods in between.

This blog was supposed to be about Sushi, our “new” family cat, who coincidentally sat right next to me when I started typing.

SushiMac

It’s become “our thing.” Every time I sit down with my Mac, Sushi curls up right next to me. He’s nestled up against me right now.

We adopted him from a small family-run shelter close to our home just three short weeks ago (though it feels much longer)…

And yes, we named our cat Sushi.

~

I’m blogging about a cat, therefore I am a cat lady. That’s how it works, right?

~

Then there’s sushi the food, not our cat, as in the sushi that has been flying off my bamboo mats at Rice House and into many homes in our town of Evergem, and other towns both near and far. There’s also the sushi that was made under my guidance and instruction, at the very first sushi workshop Rice House hosted nearly a month ago. I meant to blog about all of this sooner, but my heart just wasn’t in it.

My husband Davy and I had no idea what to expect when we created the sushi workshop event, and booked space enough for at least ten potential students, at our town’s community center (conveniently located just right across the street from Rice House). Would ten people in our tiny town be willing to come out on a Monday night, let alone pay to learn how to make sushi? Would the event be a flop?

Well…

I’m so glad we had such a great turnout…

Group

Because present on that night,

was a doctor, hairdresser, and pastry chef baker,

OtherHalf

oh, and also among the group,

George.

George

October 12, 2015

George turned out to be the evening’s rockstar, and he held his own and really did roll some tasty maki. I can tell you this first-hand because I sampled some.

And come May, Rice House turns two years old and it really has evolved like a motherfucker.

Hard work can actually pay off. A lot of times, it really can. Legally. Sometimes illegally too. Because…

Don’t knock shit until you’ve tried shit.

~

But we all know there are things that happen in life, that have nothing to do with how hard you work. Or even whether or not you are a good person. I’m talking about cancer.

FUCKING FUCK YOU, CANCER, YOU FUCKING FUCKFACE FUCKHOLE FUCKWAD FUCKING FUCKER, CANCER.

Unfair to everyone it touches, but especially unfair to young children. You don’t have to be a parent to feel this. You just have to be human.

Parents shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not their child will survive childhood. Children shouldn’t have to worry about chemotherapy or needles or why they’re losing their hair, or why they can’t just sleep in their own bed every night like they used to. It’s just not fair.

Yet there is one child in my life (and Davy’s) in particular, Farah, who was recently diagnosed with leukemia. She’s the eldest of two bright and beautiful daughters, of our friends Houda and Daan. And when I say recently, I mean it’s been a month since diagnosis.

My body literally went numb when I was told by Houda, because it was the last thing I’d expected to hear…because what kind of sick fuck actually sits around waiting to hear news like this?

Just like that, Farah’s life is now forever changed, as are Houda’s and Daan’s, and baby Lynah’s too though she’s too young to grasp any of this. And in turn, mine and Davy’s too. Because it’s not the cousin of a friend of a coworker’s child in some wide degree of separation who is sick. It’s closer. And when it’s closer, it hurts that much more.

Noah is yet still too young to understand how sick Farah is, and I have not gone into depth with him because he is not yet even four. But neither is Farah. They’re the same age, and born the same month. Fast friends. But cancer gives zero fucks. It never has.

I waited as long as I could to tell Noah. But he ended up beating me to it, as Fall Break approached, asking me if we were still going to Farah’s house for another family playdate during vakantie (vacation). Because Noah forgets nothing, and he knew very well that we had plans coming up with Farah’s family.

In response I asked him a question. Had he seen Farah in school recently, and he answered no. So I told Noah, simply, that Farah would not be returning to school for a while because she was very sick, and in fact we wouldn’t be able to go to her house either during the break because she needed to rest and get better. I asked him if he’d like to maybe draw a pretty picture for Farah, to make her smile.

He answered quickly in a clear and somewhat serious tone, “Yes mama, I want to draw a picture for Farah and buy her a pink flower because pink is her favorite color.”

And it is. It struck me like a slap in the face that he knew that, or that he even remembered that. Pink. Farah’s favorite color.

FarahNoahAugust, 2015

She was head-to-toe in pink the last time we had her over for a playdate at our home, see-sawing and carefree in the summer’s breeze. She’d even asked specifically for the pink fork and knife from our Ikea kiddie cutlery, when we all sat down for lunch that day… Noah has since asked again when he can bring Farah that pink flower, and I’ve answered that her doctor must say it’s okay for her to have visitors and, “Farah’s mama will tell us when.”

The thing is, I thought Davy had been lucky in a sense, as he’s never actually been this close to fucking cancer. I admit I envied him just a little, because I’ve lost loved ones to cancer. But then I saw how news of Farah shook Davy, badly, and I once again realized that there is no luck when it comes to caring. Or cancer. No rhyme or reason either.

I also realized that I’ve been living in some Belgian bubble these last five years, untouched by what cancer can do. Because this is the first time, since I moved to Belgium, that news like this has hit me about someone close to me. That bubble has now been burst.

Needless to say, I haven’t quite been myself since receiving Farah’s news. I’ve been throwing myself into all sorts of extra work and projects, even staying off Twitter to some degree which is quite epic, trying to cope with the constant flood of emotions. Anger and sadness, frustration and fear, and…wow, even some guilt, all of these to varying degrees. And often all of them in the same day, on any given day as of late.

So I Googled what I could possibly be doing for Farah, and Daan and Houda, and even Lynah. I really wanted to do right by them, and be there for them, all of them. I mean…every parent out there knows that this phenomenon of finding a child who gets along fabulously with your child and who also happens to have cool ass parents that become real friends, just doesn’t occur often enough.

So I did as Google instructed and Davy and I offered, gently, food and favors and specific services…anything that we might be able to do for them that might help, that might free up their time so they can have more of it with their two little girls. But to be honest, it was also because there was this overwhelming sense that I should be doing something other than feeling sorry. And then I made myself feel like shit, feeling selfish for making this about me in any way, because doing something for our friends would somehow make me feel better about all of it? And was I stepping on someone else’s toes? Was this not how Belgians behaved? Was I just being the crazy American again?

And so I struggled, and even avoided, finishing this blog about well, my cat. I felt stupid. I felt frivolous, writing a blog about a cat, and about sushi. How could I put out something so silly when there were bigger things happening around me?

~

But before Sushi or the sushi workshop ever happened, there was still our little Noah. And Davy. And me.

In September, our little family of three, spent half a day with Ann De Wulf, a warm and gifted photographer who was sent to our home by Libelle Magazine, to accompany an interview conducted by one of their editors, Karolien Joniaux. The article was to be about my life here, as an expat, and all its ramifications and comparisons to the U.S., cultural and otherwise.

MeNoah

September 28, 2015

Ann made us all feel comfortable, as we should have felt in our own home, and at Rice House. She made it easy to pose for hours in front of a camera like we did it on the regular. And Noah’s behavior spoke volumes of Ann’s warmth, and the two quickly became buddies by day’s end.

NoahAnn

By the time we wrapped up, Noah and Davy were exhausted, each taking up their own couch and napping while I snapped photos of them in anticipation of a future blog. None of us knew anything yet of Farah’s condition. I suppose ignorance can indeed provide some degree of bliss.

PostPhotoShoot

Part of me wishes I could just go back to September, before we ever had a cat or put on a sushi workshop or found out about Farah, because I feel like life has been racing along faster than usual. Flying by even, and I can’t seem to slow it down. But I do know that life must go on. And this is something I realized in a big way, this past week, after meeting up for one long drink with Farah’s mom.

After weeks of chatting and text message novels back and forth between our busy schedules, Houda and I were finally able to get together, and just…talk.

It was Houda’s first real time away from Farah in over a month, and she wanted to hear all about how Noah and Sushi were doing.

They’re doing heartwarmingly great by the way…

NoahSushi

Just this afternoon, on my lap, a favorite spot now for both Noah and Sushi

And Houda wanted to know how Rice House was going and how I felt about the Libelle article, which had just come out the day before. I had a million questions I wanted to ask Houda, but I stopped myself. I lived in the moment, sipping my drink slowly, and letting the conversation just flow like it always had between us.

We did of course eventually talk about Farah, and how she’s thankfully taking well to treatment yet beginning to lose some of her hair after a month’s worth of chemotherapy. We talked about her youngest baby girl Lynah, and her husband Daan (who is soon to become Davy’s gym buddy, something Houda and I are equally enthusiastic about), and about their work and time off for Farah, and countless other bullet points. But mostly we talked about Sushi and sushi and Libelle, and sex and gossiped some too. Because that’s what girlfriends do right?

We ended up also talking about what it’s like to be a strong and opinionated woman of color living in Belgium, because this was in fact a topic covered in the Libelle article. Houda actually grew up here and I just got here in comparison, but the colors of our skin make us stand out. We can’t help that. But we can control what people come to know us by, and remember us by. I’m grateful to have found a friend in Houda. I thought I was a strong woman, but she inspires me to be stronger somehow.

But what struck me most while we were talking about some of the more unpleasant details around Farah’s hospital stays, was that Houda stressed repeatedly how much better their circumstances were than that of other families in the children’s ward. And that the hospital is fantastic in all they do, and the Belgian healthcare system leaves little to pay for out-of-pocket,  but that there are still families in great need. Because we all know how everything can cost a little yet add up to a lot. And so with Houda’s blessing I’ll be setting up a small wishlist (Update: Now Final: Farah’s World) on Amazon UK, for anyone who cares to or can gift an item of comfort, going to Farah and other children at the hospital, fighting the tough fight against whatever disease taking hold of their little bodies… All gifts will be collected and delivered to the Children’s Cancer Ward at UZ Gent Hospital.

If you would like to donate a smaller amount, to be matched by me and my husband Davy, please use the “Donate” button on the bottom right of this blog. We are hoping to collect all items from the wishlist for this cause.

~

So it turns out the best thing I could actually do, and that I did, was just being there. Meanwhile all the while I thought I was doing nothing. But what I had done was kept the lines of communication open to remind Houda and Daan that our friendship would always be there. And it will be.

And with Houda’s and Daan’s permission, I’ve finally let it all out, and allowed myself to finish this blog which has turned out to be the length of multiple blogs. If you would like to leave a message of support and understanding for Farah’s family in the comments or share you experiences, please do, but please don’t pass judgements or question anyone else’s intent.

I can’t wait for Noah and Farah to be reunited, and see how much they’ve both grown since this summer.

SweetHug

I’ve said time and time again that Farah is absolutely one of the smartest and most delightful little girls to have crossed Noah’s path, and I look forward to snapping photos again in awe of her playfulness once again.

Thanks for staying with me while I worked through this.

Always dishing,

Jun

My Husband Plays Destiny

GinaTorres

Davy plays Destiny.

It sounds borderline kinky but really it’s a PlayStation game.

Destiny_box_artGuys’ guys play video games.

You can either join them or let them or dump them for it. Guys’ guys who play video games come in those three categories. The ones you join, the ones you let play while you do other things (like blog or catch up on Empire), and the ones you end up dumping because they just play way too fucking much.

bomberman-world-usa

1. Joining them means maybe smoking a joint and playing Bomberman or  Ten Pin Alley, because these are the perfect games to go with a puff with your boyfriend and your friends or his friends and laugh and get the munchies.

Ten_Pin_Alley_Coverart

A lifetime ago, in college and after work, I did a lot of this. And I got fat as fuck but I had fun. It was a phase in my life way before I stopped joining them and wanted to just let them, ex-boyfriends and my husband included, let them play their video games. And so I went through all my adults years having boyfriends, live-in or not, who played video games, because I dated mostly guys’ guys.

2. Letting them is basically my life with Davy. He plays video games responsibly and not like a zombie, and I’m basically like go ahead because I’ve got my own shit to do. Relief.

3. Dumping them for it is where shit gets real. These kind of boyfriends are the ones who ruin it for the good video game boyfriends (or husbands). This is why we can’t have nice things. Some dudes just get hooked and they lose girlfriends. I’ve had one of those. And I did not appreciate busting my ass working in banking so he could call in sick to work and stay home and get high and play video games with his friends. And that’s the shit I had to come home to. Fuck no. That shit ended with the quickness.

I’m not saying only guys’ guys or even just guys for that matter are into video games. I’m just saying, I’m a pretty girly girl and I’m just speaking for myself. I know video games will never die,  so I’m not exactly a join them kind of girl anymore, I’m a let them one. When it comes to video games. Not porn, because I’ve joined in on all kinds of porn and still do, but then I also don’t care if Davy watches, with or without me. Just let them. There’s nothing wrong with porn. But that’s a whole other blog.

Let them have their time as long as you get your time.

Davy’s currently playing Destiny and before that he finished Watch Dogs. And before that too, I also pretended to pay attention and act excited about things he would tell me about the levels and storylines and characters. Nothing over the top, but just okay yes I support you playing video games stuff.

Most of the time I forget everything, except maybe a random voice used in the game…usually a celebrity I recognize by voice because maybe it belongs to Gina Torres aka Jessica Pearson in Suits. Love her. That was pretty exciting for me, especially since I can’t see her anymore, even in cameo, as Bella in Hannibal. Boo.

Watch_Dogs_box_art

But if Davy can find me Bomberman, I’ll join him. And we’ll get Noah in on it at some point and it will be gloriously funny to behold. So Davy, if you’re reading…get us Bomberman somehow please and thank you…

Always dishing,

Jun

Once Upon A Time

BB

What in the hell is going on? Fun.

Like it or not, this is the current state of affairs of Big Brother 17, and Big Brother overall. Bizarre gameplay and dynamics and then exploding Twitter wars between BB alum, with words and deleted tweets, and Frankie Grande fans are out in droves defending rabidly the glory of the Grande family name. Fans of the beloved show who only watch the televised programs are pretty happy as usual, and the (tiny actual sliver of) fans who follow the live feeds are foaming at the mouth, and at the same time making each other pee their shoes laughing.

It is Big Brother, after all. Or is it?

I don’t waste blogs ranting about one particular Big Brother alum or another. No, that’s what Twitter is for, for me. Because every person, winner or loser, that has been on the show, once or three times, is connected. We are connected. Fans too. Connected. A family? Not really. Why? Our own families are complicated enough, why do I have to have another family? No thanks. I’d rather have friends.

Here’s the thing. Janelle Pierzina actually brought me and Evel Dick Donato together. It was at one of her parties, and she handed her phone to me because Dick was on the line and he wanted to chat with me. To be honest I didn’t want to, but I did, because we are connected. But that phone call between me and Dick did not really do anything, by way of bonding.

But Janelle and I first bonded on a flight home to New York from L.A., after our Big Brother 10 food competition cameos. She’s a glamazon, and I felt small and boyish next to her. We were probably a funny-looking pair checking in our luggage at LAX and then leaving JFK together. But we established a bond that trip, and saw each other a few more times thereafter.

We’re not friends today.

But Dick and I are friends. We’re not BFFs or labeled anything, because we just get each other, good and bad. People have been making sick jokes that I suck Dick’s dick and that I will also be HIV+ soon. What? Yeah.

But I make some sick jokes too, and I can be often horrible to the point of she-can’t-be-real horrible. But even I’ll tell you…I might suck a mean dick, but I’ve never sucked someone’s dick from thousands of miles away. That’s one massively long dick. And I just can’t handle something like that. Don’t act like you can. Besides, I’m just not into Dick like that. Why can’t a guy and a girl be friends without the need to suck each other’s funk? But I get it. There are people whom I offend on the regular and relentlessly, and they lash out at me with such things, and worse. People lash out at live feed reporters and bloggers too, and at other fans. Fans. It’s not just the BB alum who are affected.

I’ve rarely been lashed out at by a spouse or family member of someone cast on Big Brother. I’ve been reprimanded once or twice but I’ve always been a firm believer of leaving loved ones out of things. It’s where I draw the line. This summer, three loved ones of three different BB17 Houseguests reached out to me on Twitter. One was mildly heated but pleasant. One was mild and very pleasant and emails were exchanged and there’s a bond there. The third incident was not so great because this particular loved one had read some of my most recent tweets, because a Twitter troll baited her by tagging her after the fact.

So this loved one was angry at me and tweeted me saying I was disgusting, and ugly. I can totally understand their anger, especially if it was the first they were seeing my tweets about their loved one. So I responded calmly and firmly but still incredible rudely. People said I should have left her alone, that I should have ignored her. But she tweeted me first.

I sound like a child right now. I hate it. Sigh.

I shouldn’t have taken that bait but I decided to that day. Big Brother isn’t pretty. It’s not meant to be pretty because it brings out our darkest side as much as our brightest side, evoking at a minimum three emotions at a time when you’re involved. But Big Brother was never pretty, but it was more tolerable once upon a time. Once upon a time, when Big Brother was new and innovative…and I wasn’t so old.

Ha.

To me, this season, James Huling was just that, new and innovative. He’s not perfect by any means. But he reminds me of old school Big Brother.

I’ll be announcing on Monday, the two winners from the #HillbillyAsian t-shirt giveaway. Thanks for everyone who participated or spread the word. The contest is now closed.

Thank you all!

Always dishing,

Jun

Here Goes Nothing

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This is the obligatory “jumping back into blogging after being MIA is daunting” blog. Especially since there was a once upon a time I blogged every day. When Noah was tiny and napped and he napped often, and I chose not to nap but instead to write. So “Here Goes Nothing” is less about nothing and more about everything. Lots has happened in five months, and some things have remained very much the same.

Rice House is one year, three months and twenty-five days old today. Happy belated birthday to Rice House. Davy and I are very proud of what Rice House has become thus far, and relieved that Rice House is officially debt-free and on its way to more greatness.

And proud of Noah. Noah starts back up at school on the First of September at three-and-a-half. He’ll be in the same kindergarten class but with a different teacher, and still right across the street diagonally from Rice House once again. At the start of summer he was still rocking pull-ups and feeling stressed about potty training but today he is fully-potty trained and also in his first month of sleeping in a twin-sized official big boy bed. The transition has been smooth and I’m grateful. I never take this kind of shit for granted because all around me I see parents struggling, couples struggling and families struggling. But making it. And sometimes not making it. Life is hard for everyone and it’s a different kind of hard in Belgium, than it is in America.

I look forward to seeing life through Noah’s eyes for years to come. Everything my eyes saw, growing up in Manhattan, is on a whole other planet compared to that of Noah’s life here. The concrete jungle versus some of Europe’s oldest landmarks. Windmills even.

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Such stories he could tell you about windmills…and Legos (link to video in case it doesn’t show on your device: Legos)…

Noah will have many many many more stories to come.

He is already very much a prolific storyteller in two languages, speaking more Dutch and sprinkling in perfect English whenever he wants. His newest word is congratulations and I can’t wait to teach him to use it.

Noah’s begun to memorize and understand Korean when he Skypes with my mother, his 할머니 halmuhnee. That is what he was taught to call my mother from the very beginning and their bond is strong despite the distance between them. I call her momz in writing but Noah knows her only by 할머니. He calls Davy’s mom Omi and her partner Patrick Opi. He calls Davy’s dad Opa and his wife Oma. Everything in its place and everyone with a unique identity. I can’t wait to for our next trip back to New York for my brother’s wedding.

My brother Danny, Jun Young 준영, who is marrying a young woman I once met as a young lady. Anita. But she’s all woman now and I’m going to cry a lot seeing them walk down the aisle in April. I will cry for their happiness and my dad’s happiness. My dad passing away at 51 nearly killed all of my family in different ways, but now we celebrate him more and cry less. Anita was there for my brother when my dad died and she’d been with him since. They are making it and on their wedding day I will probably bawl and then laugh and not be able to keep eye makeup on. I may have to go with just a natural look and see what transpires.

Because a lot can transpire “since last blog.”

Davy and I as individuals, and in our marriage, have come a long way we’re well on our way to hitting the five-year mark. No marriage is perfect, that’s just suspect, but there is no shame in our game and that’s all that matters. We fight and take turns being assholes to each other, and we struggle like everyone else. And we’re making it. Shit gets real. But we’re stronger than ever.

Plus I turned 40 in July. And there’s no going back. Not with that shit. I may not look old but I do look older. I’m more than okay with that. SPF for the win.

So when I get asked multiple times a day if I’d “go back on Big Brother” it’s like there’s a short answer and then there’s everything I wrote about in this blog so far plus it’s not the easiest question to answer. Maybe. Depends. Who knows? I have so much on my plate, some shit needs to be planned and some just done on a whim because spare pockets of time pop up.

I do know that I’m back to watching Big Brother again after a season-and-a-half hiatus. I’m enjoying most of it immensely. Big Brother 17 is the closest we’ve gotten to an Old-School BB in a long time. It needed to be said. I am enjoying BB17. Despite my horribly scathing and cringy judgmental tweets, I am actually. This doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive. And some people don’t get this. Meh. Who cares. The trolls always find me. Always. So I’m working on a back to BB blogging blog. And it will be a Power Rankings blog but of course my criteria have changed.

Would I trust this HG to babysit Noah for an hour or two?

Would I employ this HG at Rice House?

Would I double date with this HG (and their potential significant other)?

The double date thing comes up because people here in Belgium love to do it to the point of, really, and it’s something you can’t really avoid. It was something I couldn’t avoid last week…so it’s a new criteria in this Power Rankings. Would Davy and I go out for sacred free time with this particular HG and their date? Next blog.

Always dishing, Jun

Old Traditions, New Traditions

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Once upon a time, I never had a blog. But ever since I started this site, every year, I’ve done a birthday blog for my little Noah.

And by “every year” I mean this is the third…

So Noah turned three this past weekend, but before we ever got to birthday candles and balloons and presents, our little family of three struck poses:

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Noah even had a wardrobe change and donned a traditional hanbok, literally translated as “Korean clothing.”

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He transformed into a Korean prince, just like he did on his first birthday and his second birthday.

I marveled at how much he’d grown into the hanbok, which he’s now worn the last three birthdays…

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~

And then on Saturday morning, Noah awoke and had a bowl of miyeok guk, literally translated “seaweed soup,” a very traditional Korean meal especially for birthdays…

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Why on birthdays?

Because miyeok guk is also the first meal Korean mothers eat, by tradition, after giving birth, because the seaweed provided loads of nutrients and minerals to new moms.

And so we have this soup every year on our birthdays to remind us of what our mothers did for us, and to bring luck into our lives.

I plan to serve miyeok guk as the special of the week this week at Rice House, to celebrate Noah’s birthday with as many people as I can…

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And once all our soup was eaten on Saturday morning, it was time for a bath and another wardrobe change!

Time to party!

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What Noah didn’t know was that his papa spent the night before, toiling away and putting together the “big” gift…an electric Bugatti…

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Needless to say, Noah was THRILLED.

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He even gave his new car a good cleaning in-between rides…photo-25

~

And the next morning, on Sunday, Noah awoke to a second birthday party with all new party guests, and a whole new cake!

DSC06080 DSC06082And best of all, Noah got lots of hugs from his Pepe (godfather) Koen…

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And in fact, it was Pepe Koen who had hooked us up with our family photo shoot in the first place, yielding pictures like this one…

IMG_2828It was a very good birthday weekend for our Noah, two birthday parties and all, that wore us all out.

And we’d do it all over again, just for Noah.

But maybe next year we’ll stick to one big party…

Thank you everyone…for all the love, birthday and every day!

Always dishing,

Jun

Blame Oreos!

Oreos

Today…

It was 5pm and I wanted Oreos. I had thirty minutes left before I’d have to open Rice House for dinner service, and I still had a few items to prep before I was fully ready for customers. I could either ignore my Oreos craving or cave in, and run to my town’s sole and small stationery-grocery story by Rice House, and get a pack.

It was an easy decision. Being on your period means satisfying cravings. Period.

Map

So I locked up Rice House and ran down the street and across the parking lot of my town’s center, Evergem, population basically-nothing-compared-to-Manhattan. There weren’t many people around outside as it was a cold and windy day, but I did notice one couple having a cigarette outside a nearby cafe. And there was one girl waiting for the bus at the local stop. I remember she looked cold and definitely not dressed warm enough.

iPhone in hand, I checked my Twitter account, and was about to open an email when I walked into the only store for miles where I could buy Oreos. Friendly faces greeted me and I spotted immediately shiny blue packages of O-R-E-Os waiting right there for me on the counter display. I put my iPhone down on the counter and grabbed a pack, just ONE pack mind you, and I paid for my purchase. My greedy little hands pushed the pack of Oreos in my coat pocket and I said goodbye to the cashier and turned, with my arm extended to open the door leading out.

A very young and very skinny girl with black hair down to her ass was on the other side of the door. She looked like a slightly lighter-skinned-but-anorexic Nicki Minaj. I held the door open for her, smiling, and I gave her the once-over. I can’t help but judge people by what they’re wearing, and this girl was a walking mess of fashion faux pas. Very Minaj.

I’d smirked and left the store, crossing the street before realizing I’d left my iPhone on the counter at the store! I’d turned to cross back over when faux-Minaj ran out and down the street – loudly – in her four-inch faux leather ankle boots and metallic jewelry. She even turned and looked right at me. And still I’d thought nothing of it, because, maybe she was just in a rush? I was in a rush myself, needing to collect my iPhone and then get the hell back to Rice House for opening…

When I walked back into the store my eyes went directly to the counter where I’d put my phone down. It wasn’t there. Duh. I realized that chick had actually been running away with my phone. And now she was gone. Fuck. I felt so stupid, but not stupid enough to stop the ideas spinning in my head.

I saw there was a surveillance camera in the store and I asked the owner to go through footage from the last ten minutes. She got started right on it. I used her phone to call my husband Davy. Then I ran back outside, feeling helpless, knowing I should probably call the police too, and at least report the incident.

But then I turned and noticed that at the bus stop was the same girl who’d been waiting there the whole time. I approached her.

“Did you see the girl that just ran out of here?!”

The girl answered, “Yes, she’s my friend.”

“What?! Well, your friend just stole my phone.”

The girl, “Melissa,” looked suitably shocked and I actually believed she was a good person despite having a thief for a friend. I couldn’t believe my…luck?

“Did she get in a car or leave by foot?! Which way did she go?” I was basically screaming at this point.

Melissa told me that the thief, “Ani,” got into a grey Mercedes and took off, and that Ani lived a few blocks away from a supermarket close by. Melissa was very helpful and even offered to call Ani. I needed a phone with which to call the cops, but I didn’t want to take my eyes off Melissa, so I took a few steps over to the cafe next door. The couple from earlier was outside smoking again so I quickly explained the situation and procured one of their phones to call the cops with.

Granted, the police station was literally around the corner from where I was standing – because my town is that small – but I just didn’t want to let Melissa out of my sight. It turns out it wouldn’t have mattered if I’d run to the police station, because the police station is close on Saturdays. Yes. Closed. On Saturdays and Sundays and holidays. Because this is Evergem.

Nevertheless, I called the “911” equivalent here in Belgium. I explained as best I could in Dutch what had happened and I was told a police unit would be arriving at the scene of the crime asap. Meanwhile, Melissa had hung up the phone with Ani, who of course denied stealing my phone. Uh-huh.

Melissa’s bus eventually came and she had to go to work. I thought about detaining her by force but instead I asked her nicely to give me her contact information and to also hand over Ani’s number (and full name). Melissa actually complied. She turned out to be my savior. Without her and all the info she provided, my Oreos would have been worth nothing in the end.

Because when the police arrived, we checked out the video footage at the stationery store, and indeed we confirmed that the bitch Ani took my phone. She’d simply dropped her purse on top of my phone and then swiped it when she left. It was all on film.

But by then, my iPhone had been turned off and SIM card removed so the “Find My Phone” function wasn’t really useful, although I did manage to set a password on it remotely…

So I handed over Ani’s name and telephone number, and Melissa’s too, to the cops. My husband Davy arrived on the scene too, just in time to accompany me to the police station, which the cops opened the doors to just for me, and we filled out all the necessary paperwork. Deep down, I didn’t think I’d ever actually get my phone back.

And so I returned to Rice House a bit defeated, and iPhoneless, an hour later. I did have a flip phone on me though, an extra we keep around the house for our babysitter, that Davy brought with him. But I’d already lost an hour of business, and also any calls that may have come in for orders. My iPhone also serves as my business phone.

Sigh…

I felt like all was lost, and I couldn’t even bring myself to eat the stupid Oreos I fished out of my coat pocket. There was no way I’d enjoy them now…

Oreos

 

~

I was serving my first walk-in customer of the evening when the police officers from earlier walked into Rice House. They had my phone! They’d tracked the thief down using her name and phone number and Facebook account! They went to her house, and she eventually handed the phone over albeit SIM-card-less, and claimed she never stole anything. She insisted that she had simply found it “somewhere.” No confession. No remorse.

Thankfully SIM cards are useless here, because they all come with a personal pin code known only to the owner…

The thing is, If she’d at least fessed up and maybe cried and apologized I would have been okay with simply seeing my iPhone again. But now I want more justice done… What kind of idiot steals shit from the town’s only grocery store when they actually live in said tiny town? I’m sure I’ll run into her at some point again, whether or not it’s in or out of court…

I hope to run into Melissa at some point so I can buy her a free meal at Rice House.

Oh, and I definitely won’t be having any Oreos anytime soon…

Always dishing,

Jun

Hey, Bruce Lee!

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If my life ever became a book that became a tv show or movie, which may never or somehow happen, my biggest fear would be that I can’t recognize that life that’s being portrayed as mine…I think I might know just a little bit of how Eddie Huang was and is feeling to this effect about his memoir being made into ABC’s show Fresh Off The Boat, which premiered Wednesday…

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Eddie’s the 11-year-old in this photo, set in 1995 (Courtesy of ABC)

 

Aside from the forced and inconsistent accents of broken English, there weren’t actually as many “negative stereotypes” of Asian people as many feared there’d be. And Randall Park seemed to just have been plucked out of Kim Jong Un mode in The Interview, and dropped right onto the set of Fresh Off the Boat as far as his speech was concerned. As a matter of fact, there wasn’t very much to grasp at all in the way of “real” scenarios growing up in an Asian-American family. The show was all over the place trying to please everyone, that too much was lost. The best and comedic moments were those in which network propaganda was dropped and we got actual glimpses into shopping/shouting in the “Taiwanese market” and what happens come “report card time” in an Asian-American household.

I have to assume Eddie Huang’s memoir is better than what ABC put forward, despite having some of the cutest and endearing little boys in the cast of this family. To say the show is white-washed would be an understatement.

I mean, I’ll be the first to admit that when All-American Girl came out, starring my Korean sister-from-another-mister Margaret Cho, in 1994, I was so excited to see a Korean person on a major American television network that I didn’t care whether or not the show was actually good. To me, at the tender age of 19, I felt validated as a young Korean-American. There she was, funny-as-fuck-to-me at the time, Margaret Cho, on her very own tv show! I ignored the fact that everyone else on the show wasn’t Korean, hell, MASH was supposed to be set in South Korea and there were no Koreans ever to be found in the cast. That was never a huge problem for me, just like it wasn’t in All-American Girl, because above all else I’m a realist. And no major television network is going to employ a slew of Koreans, or Chinese, or anyone who checks off the box labeled “Asian or Pacific-Islander” on government documents, for one television show. A friend of mine, who also happens to be a fairy princess, actually writes specifically about this on the regular.

So bearing in mind that not everything you see on television is accurate, let alone real, how much are we actually supposed to take away from this new ABC show Fresh Off The Boat? Well, I’ll tell you what I walked away with and what left an impression…

“Yo Chinese kid. What’s your name again? Something Chinese?”

This quote is taken from the first school lunchroom scene which young Eddie finds himself in. He’s questioned as to what his name is, in a most rude way, by another student. It seems everyone in this particular Orlando grade school is white, with the exception of Eddie and one black student.

This scene also happens after his teacher pulls this face…

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…while attempting to pronounce Eddie’s “Chinese” name, on this, Eddie’s first-day-of-class-in-a-brand-new-school…

This teacher’s face bugged me, and not just because I’d seen that same expression on some of my teacher’s faces, growing up, trying to pronounce my own Korean name. And also because this week in particular I had a putting-it-mildly-unpleasant experience with a teacher myself. Specifically, my almost-three-year-old-son’s preschool teacher…

I’ll rewind.

My husband Davy and I were eating dinner with our little Noah on Tuesday evening, when Noah tried to get my attention across the table.

“Hey, Bruce Lee!”

I tilted my head in cartoon-like confusion. Where had he picked that up? Bruce Lee? He knew nothing of martial arts nor had he ever watched Kung Fu Panda (this is where my brain went). So I asked Noah to repeat himself. Perhaps I’d misunderstood or heard it incorrectly.

“Hey, Bruce Lee!”

I put down the taco I’d been eating (it’s usually taco night in our home on many given Tuesday), and I asked Noah where he’d learned that name Bruce Lee. He replied that his teacher called him that at school. And he mimicked again…

“Hey, Bruce Lee!”

I was shocked. I didn’t want to freak out Noah by freaking out myself. He had no idea the significance of that name.

I exchanged a glance with my husband and continued to eat, although I could barely taste my homemade salsa anymore. Like I said before, I’m a realist. I know that raising an interracial child in a homogeneously-white country such as Belgium comes with its pros and cons. I just didn’t think I’d have to deal with it so soon, and certainly not involving a teacher, Noah’s teacher.

Thoughts raced through my mind as I watched Noah finish his dinner. But I knew the answer in my heart was that he was, in fact, telling the truth, as children his age brutally do, and that there simply was no good explanation for an adult and educator calling my Noah “Bruce Lee.” And obviously repeatedly, for Noah to have brought it home.

Noah is his name. Noah is what he should be called, at school and anywhere else for that matter. I told Noah that the next time someone called him by another name he didn’t know, that he should reply, “My name is Noah!” We practiced this a few times. Silly stuff. I called him by different animal names and cartoon names and each time he replied, “My name is Noah!” I felt better about it all going to sleep on Tuesday night.

Davy and I decided to nip shit right in the bud and have a private talk with Noah’s teacher on Wednesday morning. We arrived at school early, determined to get to the bottom of Bruce Leegate, and were disappointed to learn that Noah’s teacher was in another building “making copies” and we should return in the afternoon. I actually did learn later what these “copies” were, and what was so important about them that she wasn’t available to talk that morning…

So Davy and I returned in the afternoon, to collect Noah, and to speak with his teacher. We started the conversation off by relaying our taco night conversation and the teacher’s eyes bugged out, and before we could even get to the part where we ask Noah where he’d learned “Hey, Bruce Lee,” we were interrupted. The teacher pointed out the window to the courtyard and claimed Noah must have heard it outside playing. We replied that most toddlers don’t know who Bruce Lee is. The teacher quickly replied that it must have been a third-grader then, and that “a talk would be had with the third-grade teacher.”

Strange.

Stranger still, the teacher went on to say that sometimes “handicapped people with mental issues pass by the school and one of them must have said something to Noah.”

?!

The whole time I had my head tilted and my lips pursed, as I listened to this teacher (in Dutch mind you) go on and on until she finally asked, “Did Noah say who said it?” And before I could answer she answered herself with, “No, Noah doesn’t know everyone’s names.”

But oh, Noah knows names that matter. Still, I never answered, and I looked right into the eyes of the teacher and saw that she knew I knew she knew I knew. And I made a decision then not to crucify her or vilify her because I saw in her eyes fear and remorse and…

That was enough for me, and for Davy, and for Noah for whom we are the greatest advocates. We told the teacher that this was unacceptable and that we didn’t want this happening again, without pointing our fingers at her, because we all knew what had happened. And she knew we’d all but called her out. And Noah’s teacher is in fact a fine and good-hearted soul who simply let her ignorance shine on the wrong side of right. I don’t believe in my heart that it was done maliciously. And I do believe said teacher got the message. And that’s all that matters. The message.

Since then, Davy and I have shared this experience with several friends and family members. Most decent human beings were rightly outraged and supportive of our reaction and handling of the incident. Those less decent have made excuses as to why any white figure of authority would call a small child of Asian descent, Bruce Lee. Some people choose to ignore ignorance, which is a whole different kind of ignorance unto its own. Some choose to deny it, and excuse it, and even consider me “too sensitive.” Because I’m a minority? Because I’m Asian? What if I was Black or Hispanic or Middle Eastern? What are the Bruce Lee equivalents of that?

“My name is Noah!”

This is what I’ve taught my son to say proudly.

Fast forward, and coincidentally, to the lunchroom scene I mentioned above from Fresh Off the Boat…little Eddie’s response to “Yo Chinese kind. What’s your name again? Something Chinese?”?

“My name is Eddie!”

Kinda perfect.

And that all-important document that was being “copied” by Noah’s teacher on Wednesday morning? It turns out it was copied eight times because eight students, including Noah, out of the twenty-two in Noah’s preschool class, are being advanced to the kindergarten class mid-school season at the end of this month. We discovered the photocopied letter and evaluation, in Noah’s backpack, after we left his teacher and awkward conversation. It turns out we probably did do the best thing in this case, since Noah’s teacher will no longer be his teacher come March.

And in particular, Noah was evaluated as demonstrating very advanced lingual capabilities. Not surprising as he’s fluent in both Dutch and English and picking up new Korean words every day, and explaining a lot, and another reason why Davy and I must always listen. Always listen to your child. And always stand up for what is right.

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Noah will be the youngest student in the kindergarten class, which usually starts at age 3.5, something Davy and I are most proud of.

Now if we can only get him to tackle potty-training…

Always dishing,

Jun

Goodbye 2014

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This might be the last year I pull off this photo series…because Noah simply isn’t a baby anymore…

But here he was, after his last bath of 2014 last night, and ready to ring in the new year…

Noah 2015

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Last year was a tough year for me in many ways. Good things happened. Bad things happened. There were times I thought it was all too much.

I felt overwhelmed many times. As a mother and a wife, a daughter and granddaughter, and most recently, as a new business owner. So I’ve never been more ready to leave a year behind to start anew.

So last night it was just me and Noah and my husband Davy, alone at home on New Year’s Eve and it was just what I needed. There was no dressing up or going out or fancy dining and freezing in the cold. Instead, we all settled into our pajamas and had breakfast for dinner. Yes, eggs and hash-browned potatoes. This was our fancy NYE meal…

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I know you’re all jealous.

After a day of filling catering orders at Rice House, that was all I could manage for a NYE dinner…

I’m not sure what this year will bring, but I will strive to be here more, to blog, and to interact more with all of you. Happy New Year. Goodbye 2014.

Always dishing,

Jun

 

Merry Christmas Eve Yet Again

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I don’t know where the time has actually gone, looking at Noah’s very first Christmas photos from 2012…

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But it’s time for new Christmas photos to make their way onto this blog.

A Christmas Eve tradition you can call it…

~

Noah’s one year older and just a couple inches taller,

Since Christmas 2013,

Though he’s dressed in the same shirt and bowtie…

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His shirt fits better still rocking the no-pants look, that’s no lie. 

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Except this year, Noah’s Christmas tree gazing is focused.

He appears almost wiser.

SantaAndFrostyAnd his priorities are most definitely set this year,

Adjusting his snowman’s jacket,  

Having deep discussions with Santa,

Ensuring his name is on the “Good” list,

that’s right,

Noah.

~

Merry Christmas Eve to one and all.

Always dishing,

Jun