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Rachel Presser

Rachel Presser is a crazy toad lady from the Bronx who was exiled to New Jersey, spending a significant chunk of her youth where all the hideous 1970s couch covers and avocado shag carpeting went to die. Upon escaping the sea of brown and founding Sonic Toad Media, she decided to devote her time to writing from the fantastically-preserved Googie artifacts in LA and former speakeasies in Chicago, to forging new game worlds in the tea lounges of Taipei and Tokyo. She can be found at game jams, hardcore shows, vaporwave dance parties, and petting amphibians on a sensible corner loveseat.

Why Are There So Many Strange Mansions in Carmel, Indiana?

Greetings after a long hiatus, Homebodies. I was called elsewhere for a while, plus gearing up for that cross-country move (it’s great to have lots of advance notice when planning one!) and all with the travails of being a first-time home seller (in a freaking pandemic no less!), but I’ve been keeping tabs on the …

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Where the F$%^ is All This Dust Coming From When We’re Stuck at Home For Months on End?

No matter what kind of home you live in, dust is the bane of your existence. And as someone who frequently traveled, and wasn’t the best housekeeper between chronic pain and executive dysfunction, I’d be loathe to come home from a long trip or while between vacuumings to find a patina of dust coating the …

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Making Mass Trauma Tasty and Classy with Charcuterie Boards

Well hey there, homebodies. It’s been a minute! Your girl the toad lady has been busy in other realms. What with the whole deadly plague happening outside as I gear up for both film school (WHAT!) and selling my home, I fell behind on my Home Stratosphere column but am picking up now. And oh …

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The Internet’s Brain Just Broke Over Blue Baby Yoda Cookies

I spend an inordinate amount of time shitposting on Twitter. Often, to the severe detriment of my mental health and productivity. Tweeting in my thirties is like what smoking was to me in my twenties, especially since COVID has me stuck at home and unable to see anyone. Now I’m feeling nostalgic for MySpace all …

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I Threw Tofu on a Waffle Iron and it Was Revolutionary

What with it being Thanksgiving and all, Pinterest legends like the “stuffing waffle” come to mind. Late-night Buzzfeed reads and cringeposts from Tasty, 5-Minute Crafts, and the more questionable sides of Instagram have produced a plethora of things that people have shoved on a waffle iron for clicks and screams. Sometimes, they’re genius like the …

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There Will Be an Urbanization Boom Come 2023

You might dismiss me as batshit crazy upon making this conjecture. Let’s bookmark this post then return to it in 2023, and see if I’m right! But there’s another side to the coin that is simply not being discussed in real estate news right now, and it’s about not if, but when cities will fill …

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Do You Have a Domovoi in Your House?

No, it’s not the name of a hot new tech start-up about to put some invasive device in your bathroom or perhaps kitchen. But in the spirit of Halloween and uncovering weird history, plus the fact that I’ve been revisiting the Quest for Glory games where a domovoi is seen in the fourth installment, these …

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The Weird History of Predatory Lending in the Furniture Industry

So a short while ago, I got into why adventures in buying and selling furniture can just be a raw deal. In case you missed it, here’s some key takeaways from that piece: The average American moves 11.4 times in their lifespan (US Census Bureau) The mean annual furniture spend for Americans is $518 per …

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The Ghastly Origins of Mobile Homes

Greetings, Homebodies! Long time, no snarking on McMansions. Took a bit of a hiatus to focus on other projects, but I’ve returned, and since it’s the most wonderful time of the year–OCTOBER! I can finally stop running the air conditioner!–it’s time to get into some scary topics! And there’s nothing more frightening than American housing …

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What Do You Do With All That Leftover Rice? I Made Cake With It

Well, homebodies. This pandemic isn’t letting up any time soon. We’ve smoothed out the supply chain wrinkles that were causing things like flour and yeast shortages and people are gradually shifting away from “panic buying” and other habits somewhat tantamount to hoarding certain food items. For the millions of single people quarantining alone though? Judging …

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Be Careful What You Wish For in Moving to the Country

We’re amid a suburban housing boom unseen since the 1950s: people are fleeing cities en masse to reduce their risk of catching COVID-19 in crowded urban areas, where our public transit and buildings’ common areas could be crawling with viral baddies unlike the larger bubble in which you could shield yourself in the average single-family …

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Adventures in Selling Used Furniture: It’s a Raw Deal

Actually, I should correct that title. Furniture in and of itself is a raw deal. Think about it. It’s one of the most expensive components of buying or even just renting a new home, probably tertiary to the actual purchase process itself (or the security deposit) and any redecorating or renovations needed. But even if …

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Move Over, Man Caves and She-Sheds: LABYRINTHS Are The Hot New Thing

Needless to say, the pandemic is making us do a lot of crazy shit we probably wouldn’t have considered before: start a backyard chicken farm, move to a completely different state to take advantage of remote worker incentive programs, get a divorce, get a batshit new haircut, you name it. COVID-19 is an intense and …

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Would You Take $10,000 to Move to Alabama if You Work Remotely?

There’s zero doubt that the praises of remote work are being sung more loudly than ever in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although I know people who are begging to go back to a day job even if they loathe being there just because it helps them separate home from work more easily. And …

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Start a Gay Communist Game Developer Collective with Rural Development Multi-Family Housing!

It’s been an ongoing Twitter meme, and a real true desire for a significant amount of people, to basically do what Tenacious Unicorn Ranch in Colorado did: live the Stardew Valley dream of farm life where marginalized people can find safe shelter along with meaningful work and a community. As we discuss rebuilding a post-COVID …

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Why Do We Have to Wait Til Old Age To Live Around Our Peers?

Society has us conditioned to think of various milestones and socializing in relation to age pretty oddly, particularly if you’re American. The pandemic has had us rethinking countless aspects of society as it is, housing is definitely one of them. Quarantine has been hell on those of us who live in small spaces because the …

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Coronavirus is So Bringing the Tete-a-Tete Chair Back

As per usual, I was shitposting on Twitter and came across something that piqued my interest. It wasn’t just another viral meme I wound up hopping on, like the color commentary on Dr. Phil’s son’s completely batshit house inspired by several Tim Burton flicks. But I saw the above couch and a few others like …

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Why Did So Many Kitchen Linens Become Chicken-Themed in the 20th Century?

I was shitposting late in the lab one night (wait, no, I wasn’t, because it’s quarantine) when I saw yet another Twitter post that caught my eye. It was one of those things I realized I’d seen for years but didn’t really think about until someone pointed it out: namely, what’s up with all the …

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Clean Your Air Conditioner Filters For Crying Out Loud

Podcast Version:   I don’t know about the rest of you homebodies, but I’ve been sick as hell lately! Not from the coronavirus, fortunately. But I totally had a jumpscare for a minute because of the nonstop coughing that started out mild in my throat, then turned into the kind of wracking chest coughs we’ve …

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Whatever Happened to Those Mail-Order Houses From the Sears Catalog?

Having just covered the Fallen Titan that is Sears department stores, something that piqued my interest was the idea that you could buy literal houses from the catalog. Prefab homes aren’t exactly an exotic concept nowadays. When the tiny house movement took off, many builders started offering everything from ready-made prehab homes to foundations and …

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Fallen Titans: Sears Department Stores

Depending on how old you are, Sears stores can conjure up a number of memories. Such as their hardware commercials that came on during the less-exciting Sunday morning cartoons, getting a couch for your first apartment and being able to get everything else you needed in one trip before the popularity of IKEA and West …

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What Do I Do if My Yard Gets Overrun with Cane Toads?

Welp, the world seems to be getting all of these things in Biblical proportions lately: a massive plague, giant hornets, locusts, and now CANE TOADS! As Home Stratosphere’s resident crazy toad lady, that last one is the kind of thing that would make me jump for joy. We’ve been through so much, that a rain …

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Whatever Happened to Those Round Beds from the 80s?

As COVID ravages the world and nation, brutally murdering our immediate and future plans and making us wonder what the new normal will look like, some of us are gravitating to the past.  If not out of comfort, out of familiarity. After all, where we’re going? There are no roads. Or at least no road …

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Would You Live In an Apartment That Used to Be a Mall?

Podcast Version: I got inspired to dive into this after watching Dan Bell’s fantastic “Dead Malls” series on YouTube. He explores malls, shopping centers, and abandoned department stores around America that have fallen into serious disrepair and were basically left for dead, or are on the brink of demolition with only a few rented stores …

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Plumbing Emergencies When You Can’t Get a Plumber Over

Podcast Version We’re two months into COVID-19 lockdown now, and it’s definitely starting to wear down on us. We’re vacillating between days feelings like years or seconds. Houses full of unruly kids who don’t feel like attending their Zoom classes and spouses or roommates who aren’t used to working at home are equating to pressure …

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Fallen Titans: Pier 1 Imports

In light of the mass death and lockdowns to halt the spread of COVID-19 which inadvertently caused a hemorrhage of jobs and small businesses, now some big businesses are also falling despite their easy access to government largesse. It’s the end of an era: home goods and furniture titan Pier 1 Imports has ceased operations …

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The U-Shaped Kitchen’s Government-Funded Evolution

Podcast Version: You might’ve heard the term “U-shaped kitchen” before, or seen it in floor plans and home design schematics. But did you know that it was actually a US government invention from the 1940s? Okay, not QUITE. The U-shaped kitchen harkens back to forever ago, since it was a type of galley kitchen seen …

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The 2020s and Art Deco Tiles Coming Back with a Vengeance

Recently, there was a furor on Twitter concerning work done in Jersey City’s city hall building. Because of coronavirus lockdowns, the city decided to take advantage of people being unable to come in, and flooring was part of the renovation job. The 1960s vinyl floor tiles were ripped out to reveal beautiful Art Deco tiles. …

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Fallen Titans: Ronco Home Contraptions

I covered kitchen gadget fads before, but what about the people behind those fads? After all, someone had to design and market that strawberry husker that lays forgotten in the drawer and the spiralizer that only gets used once before it goes to Goodwill! Before we had viral videos, Instagram, and content marketing, kitchen gadget …

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The Gradual Melding of Tech and Homemaking

In the numerous generational spats that have taken place between Millennials and Boomers in the past few years, one of the most common complaints is that Millennials don’t have any “domestic” skills. When you can hit up Taskrabbit for help building IKEA furniture, Grubhub for sushi, and send a Roomba whizzing across your floors in …

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Is It Worth Getting Another Freezer Now? Yes, Probably

For the short version, the answer is probably a resounding “yes”. Especially if you plan on getting through COVID-19 lockdowns with lots of frozen food and cooking in bulk.  First everyone panic-bought toilet paper, then flour and yeast, freaking CHICKENS, and now freezers are understandably next. After all, if you want to go out less …

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How Will Urban Planning and Home Design Change in the Aftermath of COVID-19?

Podcast Version: At the time of writing, there are over 2.2 million reported and confirmed cases of novel coronavirus, COVID-19, throughout the world. The death toll has exceeded 150,000 and shelter-in-place orders are in effect in most of the United States and other countries, and people are arguing over whether it’s too soon to end …

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What’s Up with the Backyard Chicken Farm Craze?

After the pandemic was declared, people began to panic-buy at the grocery store. Toilet paper shortages are being reported all over the US, and no one can get bread so making your own has become an essential skill. Depending on where you live, canned goods are in abundance while fresh produce rots, or you can …

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Adjusting to Frequent Cooking at Home Under Coronavirus Quarantine

Podcast Version:   I’m losing long tracks of time in the quarantine. This uncanny new reality has set in for about a month, but there’s things a lot of us are still screwing up or just plain not getting used to.  I’m a veteran of working at home, so that hasn’t been the wrench in …

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Quarantine Baking Part 2: There’s No F$%*ing Flour and Yeast, Now What?

Podcast Version: We’re a month into this involuntary bunkering, yo. And things are getting reeeeeal. Breadmaking has become a huge thing in the age of quarantine. Baking can be an incredibly meditative activity, and as anxiety, depression, restlessness, and hopelessness ratchet up as we’re all stuck at home unable to do many of our normal …

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Breadmaking in the Age of Quarantine

Podcast Version: We’ve been under coronavirus-induced lockdown for a week now. (Or has it been longer? I don’t know, I’m losing track of time in this hell dimension.) As people are rapidly adjusting to having to work at home and start homeschooling their kids while others are bracing themselves for eventual layoffs, they’re also having …

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Houses and Home Design in Video Games: Banal Fantasy Fulfillment

Podcast Version: You know, I don’t think I’ve talked a whole lot about my wheelhouse on here that much. Sure, I dove into the ergonomic benefits of gaming chairs and the newest piece of furniture that equally horrified and delighted the Internet at large, the gaming bed–but as someone who’s been in the game dev …

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Adjusting to Working at Home Under COVID-19

Podcast Version: Well, homebodies. The shit has hit the fan in many parts of the US and world at large as coronavirus continues to spread.  Numerous professional jobs are shifting to telework–as they should’ve done quite a while ago to accommodate disabilities, chronic illnesses, parents and caregivers, and just plain real life!–and you could be …

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What If You Just Bought a Plot of Land and Built a Home?

Podcast Version: Some people have been bitten by the Stardew Valley bug and dream of having their own farmhouse in a bucolic, isolated villa at least two hours from the nearest city. A place where you’re not surrounded by rows and rows of identical tract houses and McMansions, and can even just buy a plot …

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Are Reverse Mortgages a Complete Horrorshow?

In short, yes. Reverse mortgages can be a hot mess. Choosing whether or not to take one out is a hard decision. And we’re probably going to see quite a few of them in light of yet another market crash. “Who cares about the stock market? That shit doesn’t affect me,” most Millennials grumble as …

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Floating Chairs and Texas McMansions: A Match Made in Hell

Podcast Version Recently, a house listing shown on the McMansion Hell livestream went totally viral. With 26 “floating chairs” akin to a 1980s McDonalds, all the viewers lost their shit. Like a six-car pile-up on the Cross Bronx at rush hour, it was something you really didn’t want to turn into your focal point, yet …

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Move Over, Gaming Chairs: Gaming BEDS Have Arrived!

Podcast Version The Japanese have been eons ahead of America in many respects: riding their trains is a dreamscape after living under crumbling American infrastructure all your life. Toilets have SEAT WARMERS! And trumped-up fare evasion charges? Pfft, that doesn’t happen when you have universal systems like Suica cards where you can use them to …

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No, the Sad Bachelor/Bachelorette Apartment is Not a Thing

Podcast Version Well homebodies, another Valentine’s Day is here. Depending on where you are in life, you may be rolling your eyes at this cheesy capitalist invention while you’re annoyed that every single restaurant in town is packed to the gills. Or you could be in a happy and functional relationship where it’s a personal …

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What Makes East Asian Home Design Different From American Styles?

Podcast Version When I dove into comparing American homes to European home designs and construction principles, there were a couple key takeaways: The average single-family home in the US reached 2,392 square feet as of the last census taken in 2010, an increase of more than 30% since 1980 Average home size through a small …

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How Does European Home Design Differ From American Homes?

Podcast Version American exceptionalism tends to rear its ugly head when discussing home sizes and how it relates to things like climate change, housing justice, and all those other ess jay double-u things you probably don’t want to think about as your lawn gradually murders local bee populations. The homes in the thumbnail image are …

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What’s Up with the Odd and Funky Designs at Roche Bobois?

Podcast Version I frequently pass by the very store in the thumbnail image on the way to my long bus ride back to The Bronx. Even when it’s near nothing but bus transfers and all-night tourist traps, Madison Avenue remains the height of fashion. I happened to be walking past the store one day and …

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Is a Stand Mixer a Good Investment?

Podcast Version Millennials may be unable to afford the home-buying process, but we’re sure as hell buying high-end kitchen gadgetry without even waiting to sign a deed or tie the knot first. And while there’s various manufacturers making stand mixers nowadays, KitchenAid is as synonymous with stand mixers as Band-Aid is for sticky little bandages. …

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What You Need to Know Before Buying an Espresso Machine

Podcast Version: Well babies, it’s February. The holiday credit card bills have been paid off and assuming you weren’t totally cratered by the 2018 tax reform, you’re probably thinking about what you’re going to splurge on with your tax refund. You’re probably eyeing some fancy new doodad for the kitchen like a super-powered blender or …

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Rectangle-Shaped Houses Are the Chlamydia of Luxury Homebuilding

Something about them is just…creepy. And I don’t mean in the good creepy way, like damask walls and spiderweb motifs while one blasts Type O Negative in the basement of a rehabbed Victorian manse. I mean it as in  “If this house was a person, it would totally try to slip a roofie in my …

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The Ugly History of Homeowners’ Associations

Podcast Version Ever wanted to just stop maintaining your lawn, or make your property look like some kind of Eyes Wide Shut cult, but then get angry letters or phone calls about it? You’ve more than likely got your homeowners’ association, or HOA, to thank for that. How did this bane come to be? How …

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