now i ain’t saying she a clam digga: your beginner’s guide to clamming…mostly if you’re going to cape henlopen in delaware

for the first time in a bazillion beach camping trips, we finally had no rain and no crazy storm where i thought the tent would collapse and we would die from a lightning strike. it was amazing!

it had been so long since we had nice weather while camping that i forgot exactly how pleasant it could be. it was nothing like the time that a thunderstorm whipped the tent around so violently i stood up holding the poles inside praying we wouldn’t die while the kids slept like logs. it was not like the time the sky kept spitting rain on us so we lit a fire while holding an umbrella over it only to have the fire keep smoking us out. it was also not like the time our whole entire site was sitting in 3 inches of rainwater so we set up on higher ground but then it rained and water leaked into the tent anyway.

this time, it was perfect — sunny, 80s, no real humidity, not too many bugs.

AND this time, we discovered new things… like clamming. as in digging. for clams. also known as quahogs.

none of us really knew what we were doing. so i looked up youtube videos and online forums to figure out what we needed to do…. and little of it was actually helpful in the end. like, i watched videos like this one and thought: ha! easy peasy! i can totally do this! you just take the rake and push the mud around and voila….

yeah. it didn’t exactly work out like that.

so i’ve decided to document some tips. from one beginner to another. keep in mind i’m obviously not an expert. but clamming also isn’t rocket surgery either.

tips for clamming… (especially for quahogs at cape henlopen state park in delaware):

first things first. obey the law: if you are an adult and want to go clamming in delaware, you need a fishing license. kids under 16 years old don’t need a license. and don’t try to go without — because chances are, you’ll get caught as natural resources officers make their rounds. luckily, cape henlopen makes it easy to get one on the spot at their tackle shop. note that it’s cash only to get one though. and looky here, it appears you can even purchase your license online. (fun fact: in maryland, if you’re a maryland resident, you don’t need a license to clam.)

also know the legal size for clams you can keep. the tackle shop can give you a ruler that has a notch for easy clam measuring. if a clam fits in the notch (1.5 inches long), it is too small and needs to be put back into the wild. if it doesn’t fit, it’s good for keepsies. the officers checked the sizes of our small ones… so don’t try to get away with keeping illegals!

equip yourself: we brought one trusty gardening hand rake and a plastic bucket and dishwashing gloves. it worked out ok, but with three of us clamming, we pretty quickly ditched the gloves and took turns using the rake. next time, i would make sure each person has either a hand rake (which is good) or a long-handled rake with sturdy tines (which is better) or a smallish shovel (which we saw a lot of other people using so i assume is good too). if you’re feeling fancy, you can get a rake with a built-in basket. or even waders to get out into the water. or rain boots to keep your feet out of the muck. but are these totally necessary? nah… some people also swear by just using your hands, but i found the rake a lot easier for finding a clam. for storing your clams, you can get a bucket and just put ocean water in it. or you could use a net or a bait bucket or an onion bag suspended in the water. i like the idea of an onion bag inside of a bucket for easy water-changing. think i’ll do that next time.

this was all we had between three people…. *sob*

51onpaylvel-_sl1200_ bucket_png7772

timing is everything: look up the time for low tide, then plan to clam within the timeframe from a couple of hours before to a couple of hours after low tide. note in delaware, you can’t clam at night, which should leave you with one time for low tide during the day. if you have to buy fishing licenses, give yourself time to do that too.

the reason why you want low tide is because of access. we walked out to sand bars exposed by the waning tide and did most of our digging above water, in the wet sand. you can rake under the water like i’ve seen on youtube but… we obviously did not want to be using this stumpy little hand rake in water where we can’t see anything and don’t know what we’re doing… so we stuck to the exposed sand bars. it was easier to rake and see what we’re raking.

location is everything: at cape henlopen, there are some areas where you’re allowed and not allowed to clam. by the fishing pier, clamming is permitted to the right of the pier if you are facing the ocean. so like noobs we started at the exposed sand bars along the closest point from the beach access next to the pier. and we got nothing. then we started noticing people farther out were getting clams, so we moved out and hit our tiny jackpot too. so i’d recommend going out farther from the pier as opposed to going closer.

what we realized from this exercise of digging for 1.5 hours before hitting anything was that the location was more important than any skill or tools. duh, you say. well we thought maybe we were just lacking in our ability to dig fast enough or lacking in our ability to find the right kind of air holes in the sand. but it turns out, we were just in unproductive locations at first.

so how do you actually do it then: when digging for quahogs–aka the hard clams–what you are looking for while walking on the exposed wet sand bars is a small slit of a hole that looks like someone jammed a key into the sand and pulled it out. then you dig under it with hopes of revealing a beautiful clam of legal size. that’s the short version of the instructions.

those squirtholes supposed to be the telltale signs of clams underneath. HOWEVER… there are lots of holes and we couldn’t always distinguish between a round one v. a key-shaped one v. something else, so we just dug everything. what i do know is if you don’t hear the clang of your rake hitting a sturdy shell pretty early on, you probably won’t find anything so give up and move on. they were merely 2-3 inches beneath the surface, and while people told us to dig quickly because they’ll move, we didn’t find them especially mobile. i think the razor clams are known for being faster.

if you have a long-handled rake, you could alternatively rake the sand under shallow water until you hit something, like i saw in some other youtube videos… but then you’d really have to rely on feeling your rake hitting something and pulling it out to check. i’d have no idea how to do this based on feeling alone because even while looking at our piles of raked up sand/mud goo, i sometimes got confused by the clang of small snails and shells.

once you find a clam, rinse it off, measure it, and keep it if it’s big enough!

keep the clams alive: once you start catching clams, keep them alive until you’re ready to eat them. we kept ours in  bucket filled with ocean water. you don’t want them to die because you shouldn’t eat dead or damaged ones… something about bacteria and poison and the plague.

you caught ’em, so cook ’em: before you dine on your harvest, you should give the clams somewhere between 1-3 hours to spit out their grit. what we did was soak them in salted tap water in a pot for a couple of hours then lift them up out of pot so as not to stir up the grit, and rinse them. i’ve heard of other people keeping their clams suspended in the ocean water overnight in a net or bag, and i’ve also heard of people using straight tap water for a shorter amount of time so as not to kill them prematurely. but the idea is that you want to give them some time to have a final purge so you don’t bite into pockets of sand.

i suppose you could eat the quahogs raw if you really wanted to, but i usually prefer my clams steamed or chowdered or battered/fried. since we were camping and short on equipment, we grilled them over the fire until they opened up then dipped them in melted butter heated over a little camp stove. SO FRESH. SO GOOD. TOTALLY DOING THIS AGAIN.


and maybe now would be an appropriate time to mention that we only ended up getting seven legal buggers in about 3 hours. so hopefully we’ll hit a bigger jackpot next time since we are now one step closer to knowing what the hail we’re doing.




survived my first (disney) cruise. ask me anything.


guys, i have a problem. since returning from our first disney cruise for spring break, i’ve been eyeing future potential cruise dates with a crazy obsession. that was back in march, and i’ve been checking prices at least once a week since then. how did this happen?

i never thought i’d be a cruising person. mostly because i get horrifyingly barfy from riding anything that moves: trains, buses, vans, ferry boats, cabs, any cars driven by other people…

when i used to commute via the local subway system, i used to have to sit sideways and do breathing exercises to stop myself from puking. even now, when i smell the stale air of an enclosed metro station, i feel uneasy.

i also never thought i’d really get into the all-inclusive/resort-life type of vacation. one of the best parts of being in a new place is spending hours in the weeks before a trip researching the crap out of every non-chain restaurant and finding the perfect hipster coffee shop to swing by.

so there was never any way i was going to trap myself on a moving buffet cabaret over the ocean.

but then the kids started bugging me, the commercials started looking interesting, the strangers on the internet started talking about the special nature of disney cruises, blah blah, spent an arm & leg, feared we’d regret it but #yolo.

and…it was faith-trust-and-pixie-dust awesome.

our kids had a blast, we parents didn’t lose our minds, the shows gave me the warm nostalgic fuzzies (i know all the words to a lot of disney songs), the food was surprisingly pretty good, and i only felt sick for a bit on the first night.

so since nobody really wants to read a chronological play-by-play about anything these days, here are some of my personal highlights from this trip.


1. motion sickness didn’t kill me! hooray!

in the time that i did feel motion-sick, it was more like a dizzy/floaty-headed feeling, not nausea. i felt like i needed to lie down. i felt sort of hung over. it was weird.

so then i became friends with meclizine, which is offered for free in the medical center in packets of chewable tablets. accupressure “sea bands” didn’t do it for me. (now a fun drugfact, because a lot of people don’t seem to know this: meclizine is the name of the actual drug, listed as the “active ingredient,” but you can buy this as bonine or even as dramamine in its less drowsy version. those are brand names. you usually pay more for brand names. but they have the same active ingredient. so don’t ask a large forum of people whether you should buy bonine or dramamine or generic meclizine if all three packages list the exact same active ingredient, as i’ve seen others do…)

2. disney literally owns the place where childhood nostalgia, happiness and innocence intersect.

play just the first few seconds of a song from peter pan and suddenly the world feels warmer and cheerier. add in turquoise waters, palm trees, and unlimited ice cream, and that magical happiness stuff is on. lock.

there was a point during one of the shows, where they ran through every major disney movie song from the past 30 years, and i just kept smiling and exclaiming to my side-eyeing daughter: this is SO AWESOME. she gave me an epic side-eye.

there are also lots of chances to meet characters. and lots of fun infused into everything, like our dining servers crafting green cloth napkins into peter pan hats.

they told him he was a codfish.

3. kids’ clubs are the best thing ever.

why have we never vacationed with a kids’ club before??? this was amazing! it helps that the ship had a super cool marvel avengers section with special programs for superhero-loving kids like my son. “become iron man”??? yes. “train in the marvel avengers academy??” yes. they also had a constant rotation of interactive activities going on, from cooking classes to crazy science demonstrations. there was also a neat play area that looked liked andy’s room from toy story. as much as family vacations are good for family bonding time, it was also really nice to get a few breaks here and there where the kids would go off and do their own thing and we could hang out in the quiet adult-only pool and drink some capirinhas.

we also bought one of the kids’ club wristbands and used it to unlock the cruise ship & the places we stopped on the disney infinity game system. that’s a fun souvenir if you have disney infinity 3.0. if you don’t, be glad because it’s a total moneysuck and now is going under anyway.


4. nassau is nice.

for whatever reason, *coughcough*shelteredupbringing*cough*, i don’t know, a lot of internet people on these cruising forums and groups do not like the bahamas. in my trip planning, i saw a lot of advice from people saying to stay on the ship and skip nassau entirely because of reasons like it’s “scary” and “dirty” and people selling things are “pushy.”


so of course we got off the ship and wanted to see what we could see. immediately, we encountered a lot of people selling stuff… hair braiding, bus tours, fishing tours, horse & carriage rides, trinkets, drinks… it was lively and busy and fun. i respect the hustle. it wasn’t obnoxious. we went to dunkin donuts for some iced coffees because we are addicted to them, paid in dollars and got some pretty bahamian coins in change. then we walked to junkanoo beach, which is close to the port and a public beach, therefore free to access. there were beachside bars, shacks renting all sorts of tings and lots of locals and tourists hanging out. then we continued on to experience the freshest seafood at arawak cay. this area is also known as the fish fry and has a ton of seafood restaurants and shacks with delicious food with local flavor. we went to a place called twin brother and had fresh conch salad, whole fried snapper, grilled fish, rice, beans, fresh mango smoothies… the kids loved it and it was totally worth the short walk.


the straw market had stalls of goods for sale, like t-shirts, bags, hats and other trinkets and we haggled over fedoras and a hand-carved wooden sword with my son’s name etched into it. the salespeople were great fun to haggle with.


5. private islands are pretty awesome.

disney’s private island, castaway cay (pronounced “key” btw), was beautiful and pristine and not too crowded and the kids played on the beach literally all day. it also has playground structures in the water, a splash pad for little kids, hammocks, beach chairs and umbrellas aplenty, and a snorkeling section with disney character statues underwater…. but we never made it out that far because my daughter freaked out after we were about 50 yards off the beach.



we packed a lot into 3 days. next time, we’ll aim for 7 days with more ports to explore…. #takemeback


escape tales

once upon a time in my life, i used to escape by reading every novel on the special bestseller shelf at the bookstore.

at another time in my life, i escaped by sweating it out at clubs and parties.


i also used to escape by going online and doing absolutely nothing for hours on end…. ok fine, i still do this.

but now, as a completely grown and responsible adult human, i have, for the most part, developed healthier, better ways of dealing with stress.

like drinking 3 cups of coffee a day

and taking a lot of short getaways.

in fact, last month was basically a month of condensed encore vacations including great wolf lodge, assateague camping and sonoma/napa valleys. i’ve previously blogged about all three but i thought it might be worth mentioning some new things i’ve learned… so here are my tips and lessons in no particular order.

  1. don’t go camping in assateague immediately after a bad storm. our assigned site was completely underwater. as in 4″ of water that wasn’t trying to dry up. the storms also swept sand in piles and stuff that hid the road, partially hid electric fences and made some sites uneven. on the upside, the bathroom renovations look really nice at the state park!
  2. staying in sonoma is cheaper than staying in napa, and possibly even nicer. turns out sonoma valley has more of a farmy, less-commercialized feel. we stayed in a cool historic farmhouse b&b originally owned by a woman who was a freed slave turned millionaire. the garden, vineyards, horsies, olive groves and breakfast were all amazing. driving through the mountains from sonoma to napa is also fun in a dont-swerve-or-you’ll-die kind of way.
  3. if you are a beer fan in sonoma valley and decide to visit russian river brewing company, prepare to wait. even at 11am on sunday, which is when they open, the line was down the sidewalk. thankfully, if you only want to pick up some cases of pliny the elder beer, you can stand in a shorter separate line.
  4. beer and wine both hold up exceptionally well in styrofoam or cardboard-padded wine boxes when flown as checked luggage.
  5. there’s a charles schultz museum in santa rosa, ca. all the shnoopies!!
  6. at lava vine winery, you not only get to taste their wines, you get treated to the guys pouring your wines busting out a guitar and banjo to sing a soulful ballad!
  7. great wolf lodge is pretty fun at halloweentime. the kids get to trick or treat at a handful of spots around the place and collect a bagful of candy. and we all got orange wolf ear headbands!

and here are some pictures.

galbi // korean bbq beef short ribs // the secret formula recipe is still legit // let me see your grill

korean bbq galbi on grill

when people say they love korean food, this is what they’re talking about.

korean bbq.


slabs of sliced beef short ribs marinated and grilled to perfection, with a healthy bit of char, typically served with rice and fixins and wrapped up in a lettuce leaf with a smear of korean hot sauce.

as as the summer winds down, and grilling season starts to make way for soup season, i wanted to share this recipe that brings so much joy to my life. such garlicky, sweet, salty, smoky joy.

even the most “ethnic”-averse tastebuds tend to love galbi. it’s that good.

it also happens to be pretty easy, with simple ingredients. the real challenge, however, is in the marinade ingredient proportions. too much soy sauce, and it’s too salty. too little sugar and it’s just missing a bit of somethingsomething. the trick here is the same as with the braised brother of this dish known as galbi jjim:

galbi secret formula

usually, 1 part = 1 cup for me, but if i find i need more marinade, i just increase all 3 ingredients accordingly.

now let me be clear. this secret formula is my aunt’s secret formula, and it is FOOL.FREAKING.PROOF. there have been so many times when i’ve been lured by the scent of grilling beef in a restaurant or in someone’s home, only to be let down by the flavor. but this recipe does not fail. ever.

in fact, while you could sub out sugar for honey, fruit, juice, or even sprite or jam, i don’t love the risk of messing up the ratio, so in 99.9% of cases, i just use plain jane white granulated sugar. (i used maple syrup in my galbi jjim recipe, i know, i know)

if you think it seems like a lot of sugar, too much sugar…. you’re wrong.

just give it a try.

korean bbq galbi

galbi aka korean bbq beef short ribs

makes enough for about 6-8 normal appetites, or 3-4 really hungry people who can eat a lot, i.e. me

ingredients you need:

  • approx. 3-4 lbs beef short ribs that are sliced against the grain & bone, if it’s not boneless (sometimes i see this in american grocery stores labeled as “korean style” or “korean cut” or “kalbi” or “galbi.” apparently they could also be called “flanken cut” although i’ve never seen that myself. i buy the big pack of boneless beef short ribs at costco that are thick-cut, and then just slice each thick cut into two thinner slices.)
  • 1 onion, sliced into half-moons
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 scallion stalk, chopped
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil (you can usually find a small bottle of this in any grocery store’s ethnic food aisle)
  • a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds (also typically in the ethnic aisle)

additional ingredients/fixins you might want for serving:

  • red lettuce leaves or romaine leaves for wrapping
  • cooked white rice
  • chopped scallions
  • ssam jang, also known as a korean spicy bean paste/sauce, which adds a punch of flavor to korean lettuce-wrapped bites of bbq meat. i also like to use this as a dip for plain slices of cucumber, lettuce leaves, baby carrots… while this sounds like a really obscure thing to get a hold of, i’ve bought it from my local wegmans. it looks like this, unrefrigerated in the asian food section, and i store it in the fridge after opening.
  • kimchi (it’s ok, even if you don’t like kimchi, you will still like galbi, and i will forgive you.)
  • quick-pickled veggies like cucumbers or chayote squash or radishes

ingredients i sometimes see as galbi fixins in other people’s recipes that strike me as just plain wrong:

  • cilantro
  • wasabi

i mean, i’m all for creative freedom, so you do you… but i just can’t.


what you do:

marinate your meat the night before. this way, you’ll get the maximum effect of flavor.

to start, rinse off your galbi meat or let it soak in water, just to let out some of the blood and get rid of any bone bits if you’re using bone-in slices.

place the meat, onion slices, minced garlic and chopped scallions in a big baking dish or other container/ziploc bag. (i find a big baking dish easiest). pour sugar over the meat slices, then add the soy sauce, water and sesame oil.

massage it all together to get the ingredients combined. (the main thing i try to do is to get the sugar on all sides of the meat)

sprinkle sesame seeds on top.

cover with plastic wrap and/or foil (or seal your ziploc bag) and place in the refrigerator overnight.

the next day, when the meat is good and marinated, fire up your grill and cook the slices for a few minutes on each side over medium high heat to get a good char on the outside, then turn the heat down, cover the grill and let it go a few minutes longer until it’s to your preferred level of doneness. if this seems imprecise, it’s because cooking galbi is a little like cooking steak. you might prefer it with a pink middle, or you might prefer it fully cooked. personally, i like my steak medium but my galbi well done with crispy edges.

grilling offers the best results, but if you can cook this on the stove or under a broiler. i highly recommend starting with high heat to get a good caramelized sear before cooking it through.

serve with lettuce leaves, rice, chopped scallions and ssam jang. or just eat it plain off the grill.

korean bbq galbi beef  korean bbq galbi

Must-Read: The New Yorker on “The Man Who Broke the Music Business” & DJ Taiga in the aftermath

The-new-yorker-logoToday, the New Yorker published an intriguing story recounting the rise of “the most sophisticated piracy operation in history” run by a group that called itself Rabid Neurosis or RNS. RNS leaked 22,000+ albums online — including every album ever put out by 50 Cent and Kanye West, according the story — until they were eventually raided by the FBI.

Turns out, I know someone who was part of this elite leadership in digital piracy. He helped DJ my wedding. Identified as the “ripping coordinator,” Simon (who I still think of as DJ Taiga) had access to promotional material as the music director of our college radio station, and was responsible for being the first to leak Ludacris’s “Back for the First Time” and Outkast’s “Stankonia.” It almost seems impressive and harmless, a fun modern-day organized crime tale, until you realize Simon was no longer a kid, but an Ivy League graduate building a future, when FBI agents came knocking and he faced the threat of jail time.

But the story doesn’t end with the fall of RNS. Sure, the New Yorker’s story does. But what I find especially amazing is how Simon’s story continues. In the death of RNS and the death of his pride, DJ Taiga found love, forgiveness, peace, and new life. Sometimes at the strange intersection of the cliche, nonsensical, stupefying, and glorious, God works in remarkably weird, unexpected ways. I am in awe.

Below are Simon’s words, originally posted on Facebook and re-posted here with his permission. And here is the New Yorker story. You just gotta read both of them.

Yes, the Simon Tai in this article refers to me. Being in this elite group called RNS was something I had built my identity on (albeit secret for the most part) in my late teens/early 20s. It didn’t matter that I was breaking the law & hurting companies and individuals in the process.

Although what I did seems “cool” (and I certainly thought so at the time), there was nothing cool about the FBI coming to my door & the possibility of a felony charge on my record and jail time hanging over my head for the better part of 2 years, not to mention spending 50k in lawyer fees.

I have done many things in life that I’m not proud of (including this), but through God’s grace He used this ordeal to bring me into His Kingdom. If you’re going to read the super long New Yorker article, read the following as well. This is a short testimony I gave during a Redeemer Presbyterian Church of NYC Easter service back in 2009 while the case was still going on. ‪#‎truth‬

“Good evening, my name is Simon Tai. Let me start my story with a little background information. I grew up in a Muslim household, but was exposed to Christianity and Buddhism as a young man. In college I took classes on Buddhism and even went to church a few times. I enjoyed the positive message the sermons conveyed, but didn’t connect with the people and thought that Christians were hypocritical and judgmental. So instead, I told myself to try to be a good person and figured that karma would take its course. That allowed me to focus on my career, material wealth, girls, and things of that nature.

Around the time I turned 25, I started to think about the meaning of life. I had been working for a few years developing my career. I had dated girls and been in relationships. Yet something was missing in my life. I wasn’t happy. I would get depressed sometimes, but I wasn’t sure why. I bought material things to cheer myself up, but the relief was only temporary. I started yearning for spiritual development, but didn’t have much direction and didn’t really care for organized religions. I just remembered thinking that there was a higher being out there and wanted to develop some sort of spirituality. But nothing really came out of these vague spiritual yearnings and I continued to live as I did before.

In August of 2007, I met Monica through some mutual friends. I was interested in her, but didn’t think it would work out when I found out she was Christian. So I decided not to worry about what she thought of me and used this opportunity to try to disprove Christianity to her. I admit that I was perhaps a bit obnoxious. (She later told me the same.) But in the debates that we had, she responded in such a way that not only showed her strong beliefs in Christianity and the gospel, but also a refreshing humility and honesty. It was not something that I expected. She was nothing like the stereotype of a “hardcore” Christian that I had in my head.

One telling conversation we had was about the idea of Hell. I asked her what her definition of Hell was. Thinking that she would only speak of fire and brimstones, I was taken aback when she replied “It’s a place without God and a place without God is a place without anything good”. She began to break down my stereotypes of Christianity one by one, and it made me realize that I had no idea what the gospel truly was. Looking back now, God was starting to soften my heart.

From that point, I began to crave more knowledge. I read Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis and the words spoke to me. Monica also pointed me to Redeemer’s website, and from there, I downloaded and listened to quite a few sermons. The idea of the gospel, Jesus, and inside out living made a lot of sense. A few weeks later, I attended my first Redeemer service.

Everything that I had heard and read I could logically agree with, but I still couldn’t give myself over to Christ. The idea of living for someone else was foreign to me and I wasn’t sure if I could ever do it. I wanted to take the leap of faith, but my selfishness and pride were in the way. Chatting with a few of my Christian friends, I realized that most of their testimonies involved a dramatic and/or traumatic life changing event. I wanted to believe so badly that I even thought to myself at one point, ‘why couldn’t that happen to me?’ I struggled with that for weeks, and then on December 20th of that year, it happened.

I had just woken up that day when I got a knock on the door. I opened it and facing me were 2 FBI agents that wanted to interrogate me about some questionable activities that had been a part of my life years back when I was in college. I had finally gotten the traumatic life changing event that I was “wishing” for. I was scared, helpless, and felt like I had hit rock bottom. That day I gave myself to Christ. It brought me the strength, hope, and calmness that I needed but was never able to get on my own.

To say the least, I have been through the most difficult time of my life in this past year and an half. I am facing a possible indictment, felony on my record, and in the worst case scenario jail time. I have spent $25,000 and counting on legal fees, most of which I had to borrow and am still paying off. And worst of all, I continue to live with this uncertainty hanging over my head.

But Christ has been with me through these trials and tribulations. And Christ has been with Monica, my now fiancée, as she has been by my side through these tough times. I am so thankful that I have found Christ and have been accepted into his community. Although I am in the worst financial and social state ever, I have never felt freer, more loved, and joyful in my life. Thank you.”

scenes from assateague island: wild ponies, endless rain

down east on the coast, where maryland meets virgina, just on the other side of the bridge from the mainland, you might be treated to the sight of wandering wild horses right away if you are lucky.

road to assateague island

every year, we plan a camping trip to this beach to commune with nature, pitch a tent on the sand where we can fall asleep hearing the waves, and do fun things like scream when the seagulls attack and try to scare the horses away to stop them from stealing hamburger buns off our picnic table.

this year, we went in the middle of an obnoxious rainstorm.

for two out of our three days, the rain came and went, off and on, with little breaks here and there. just enough to be annoying and drench the firewood, but not enough to send us packing.

still, it was beautiful.

i was glad to be reminded of the expanse and wonder of the ocean.

assateague beach


so were the kids.

assateague beach


thankfully this time, we didn’t have to fight any horses away from our cooler and my daughter didn’t almost get trampled by misty of chincoteague. there weren’t as many ponies that usually roam the campgrounds, actually. we hung out with just a few of them nearby.

assateague ponies


there was fire. the best part of camping is the fire and the mess of s’mores and dough boys.



on our last morning, we awoke to a gorgeous sunrise. actually, we missed the actual start of the sunrise and couldn’t see the sun, but did catch God’s fingers coming through the clouds.

with the lullaby of the waves and the joy of finally catching a blue sky and sunlight, it was a wonderful time of comfort and peace amidst the wet sleeping bags, sandy shoes, cold rain, and smoking logs that wouldn’t catch fire.

can’t wait to go back again.

assateague island beach sunrise


that time i cried at baltimore comic con

a few weeks ago, we found ourselves in the middle of a comic con for the first time ever, upon the insistence of our 10 year old daughter. i had no idea how she even knew there was a comic con nearby (turns out there was a tv commercial) and i didn’t really know what was involved. but i was excited about a few things, namely:

little asian sweatshop maryland hair flower
maryland flag flower pin courtesy of the little asian sweatshop
  • major people-watching prospects. awkwardly gawking at the elaborate costumed people at the renaissance festival was so much fun, imagine how awesome the cosplayers at comic con would be!
  • another excuse to get my toddler son in his seriously overpriced spiderman halloween costume.
  • seeing my friend fenny werk werk werk her little asian sweatshop booth. how many of you can say you have a friend who is a comic con regular and creator of handmade awesome interesting things?

what i definitely did not expect was:

  • encountering stuff that would make me so emotionally moved that i would have a mini-breakdown in the middle of artists’ alley.
  • finding a cute and clever comic cookbook of korean banchan side dishes.

but that’s basically what happened. it was cray.

we only hung around for a few hours and spent the whole time checking out booths, talking with people about their work, admiring the most detailed cosplayers (the glittery gold fire princess was amazeballs!), and buying a few cool things like an independently produced kids’ book about the overproliferation of cats in halloween costumes and prints of snake eyes from g.i. joe, the pokemon eevee, and the dog from okami den.

there were a million bazillion indie artists offering drawings of superheroes and popular comic characters or cartoon network characters (3598723 versions of groot, 87987983745 versions of spiderman and 235987 versions of finn and jake, for example). there were also a ton of artists offering on-the-spot commissions, lots of awkward eye-contact-avoiding artists who had a weird-slash-ineffective way of attracting sales (more on that from fenny here), and a handful of folks with — frankly — some creepy shiite.

but despite the proliferation of captain america drawings and batmen and rocket raccoons, i was drawn most to artists offering original works, or twists on popular characters, with distinct styles of their own. for whatever reason, i often found these people to be women. i’d be curious to know how their sales were compared to the folks who just copied existing characters, but i can only hope they were rewarded for their originality.

banchan comic book and drawn thru comic

one of those artists was robin ha, who came up with this “banchan in two pages” comic cookbook with recipes and drawings of several popular korean side dishes. i heart this concept so much. i’ve been wanting to do an infographic recipe on this blog for quite some time and haven’t gotten around to it, but a RECIPE COMIC! OF KOREAN FOOD! — how brilliant is that?? i was so excited to stumble upon robin and her booklet of recipes. the recipes are simple to do at home, sprinkled with a little education and a little humor, and i just love how everything is drawn out. you can even find more recipes on her banchan recipe blog. i just used her seaweed salad recipe with some minor alterations. and check out this seafood scallion pancake recipe. awesome.

seafood scallion pancake recipe comic
then there was the author whose work brought on unexpected and highly embarrassing tears of i don’t know what. sadness? funnyness? recognition? we first stepped up to laura lee’s table and a short comic book about life with tupperware caught my eye. it was random, but even with a skim i could see it was amusing and entertaining in a self-depracating-isn’t-this-crazy-yet-real-and-funny kind of way.

she has two graphic novels that looked like they would speak well to teenaged girls (and maybe that’s why i liked her too since im basically a 14-year-old stuck in an adult life), but the thing that caught my attention the most was a collection of artwork in a mini book that she said was more of a personal side project of illustrations and thoughts that she put together while feeling her way through an existential crisis and depression called “drawn thru: drawing through depression.” as i flipped through the pieces in this little booklet, i swear someone started cutting onions near me… there were a couple of drawings that just struck me, (if you know a piece of my backstory i guess that explains why) and i knew i had to buy that book. (and it was only $5. what a steal!)

in particular, this page is where the room started to look blurry. what the what? i can’t explain it. damn those onions!

drawn thru comic book page
The caption on this page says: We should acknowledge and befriend those ghosts in our lives that are so BIG they will haunt us forever. I know I’d rather lead them in a conga line than feel eternally chased.

so as she continued to explain the concept of the book (in a very lighthearted and smiling manner i should add, even though you might think “drawing through depression” means heavy subjects) i wanted to say “wow, this really speaks to me” but instead i had to wipe my eyes and be like OKTHXBAI. my husband was so alarmed that he started to shoulder hug/rub my arm and i was so embarrassed i had to say DOGGAMIT STOP IM TOTALLY OK OMGTHISISSOEMBARRASSING.

but i do love this book so, and again, i think the approach is brilliant. i also am planning to cut this page out to stick to my office corkboard. and this is also why i’m feeling inspired to draw it out, although not quite as beautifully, from my own experiences and thoughts.

drawn thru comic page about stress

so to sum it all up in a one-sentence review, i would say that baltimore comic con was like a fun bowl of beautiful onions. with kochujang. i think that makes sense.

now, quick: