Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Wednesdays tend to be pretty busy around here...well, the Wednesdays that I have off anyway. Yesterday, we got up at 7:30 and were out of the house by 9:30 to head to play group. The kids got to decorate gingerbread cookies...which they love!

They were definitely the expert decorators. Of course, there are children from all over the world, so I think for some this was a brand new experience. But, for my kids, it was an opportunity to further develop their skills. They decorated more cookies than any of the other kids and were the least messy, surprisingly!

You can just tell what he's planning here, can't you?

No surprise when he picks one up and bites into it! A good cook always taste tests partway through, right?

Speaking of taste when we got home from play group, I made the kids lunch and they ate while I got dinner started. Then they went to their rooms for quiet time (because apparently Cade thinks he's outgrown naps now...I am not ready for that!), and I finished dinner.

I am starting to struggle to come up with meals that I can make ahead of time and then bring over to our friends' house for "Lost night". It has to be something that can quickly be re-heated because it's hard to bring a hot pot or dish down the street, into the cab, and up the steep hill to their house (it takes about 20 minutes to get there...not too bad). And it has to be something that can feed 4 guys who never eat anything home-cooked and 4 girls who are starving by 6:30.

This week I went with sloppy joes, which I've never made before. I'm really not that big of a fan, but it seemed easy enough and not too expensive because it only called for one can of tomato paste and one can of tomato sauce. The peppers, onions, and garlic are pretty cheap, so I threw a lot of those in to add flavor. When I was taste testing initially it was hard for me to tell how it was going to turn out because I really didn't know what it was supposed to taste like. I threw in a little more ketchup, a little more brown sugar, and a different kind of soy sauce. And after sitting for a few hours while I took the kids to school to hang out for awhile and I went to workout (then made a quick trip home to take a shower and we were out the door again), and then reheating it when we got to the boys' house, I was happy with the final result.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Kennedy's School Time

A couple of weeks ago I updated you on Cade's latest accomplishments on the potty training thing. Then last week, I updated you on his slide away from progress. At this point, I'm feeling like when we make the final push, he'll be up for it. But, it's really hard to make that final push when we don't have any underwear for him to wear, we'll wait a few more weeks until we're out of school and until the underwear have arrived in the mail...
In the meantime, Kennedy has been making progress on learning to read. She also got to pick out a package of stickers when Cade did, and I struggled for a day or two figuring out how I could give her the stickers without earning them until I came up with an idea.

I decided to make her a sticker chart, as well. So, I put down a few words that she could sound out and then helped her to read and write each one. She knows all of her letters and sounds, so we just need to work on putting them together now!

Our schedule has gotten even more busy lately because we go to school most afternoons that I don't work so that I can work out with a friend. That cuts into the time that we had been using for school, but we are getting more work done in the morning now that Cade is becoming more interested in "working" too. On the one afternoon a week that I am not at school, we try to do a craft of some type. This week's is the red and green paper chain to count down to Christmas.
I have also been working on my own lessons: shooting manual with my camera so that I can get some good shots inside now that the weather has gotten cold and creating bokeh with Christmas lights...I'm a little bit addicted to my camera right now!

Monday, November 28, 2011

How do I comment?

I've heard a number of people mention that they don't know how to comment on the blog, so I figured as long as I was updating things today, I would post a little tutorial about how to comment. I've spent a few minutes trying to figure out a way to put the comment form right there on the page for you, but I haven't figured it out yet (I'm not exactly "tech savvy"), so I'll stick with what I've got for now and hopefully it won't be too difficult.
The comment slot is embedded below the post whenever you look at each post individually (as opposed to the 5 posts on the main page). That means that if you click on title of a post, it will open in another page and the comment box will be below the page. Alternatively, you can click on the "0 comments" (or it might be "1 comments") at the bottom of the post, and this will open a pop up window where you can type in your comment. If you do not have a Google account, then you will either want to click next to Name/URL or Anonymous. If you click Name, then you can type in your name (URL is where you would put your website if you have one), or you can choose to be anonymous by clicking next to that. Last week I removed the word verification because I know that was making it difficult for some, as well, and I haven't had any problems with spam. If you are asking a question, then you should check the box that says you would like follow-up comments to be emailed to you, so that you can get your answer.
So, now you can comment and let me know that you figured it out! ...or send me an email if you still have questions about it.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Christmas Decor

You may have caught the reference in my last post....yes, I took a picture of our Christmas tree...yes, we got a Christmas tree, and yes, that cake was delicious! (Seriously, it was amazing!) I really like that picture of our tree, too, because it doesn't look as tiny and fake as you will see it does in these pictures, but that's okay. Honestly, I wasn't sure that we were going to get one at all after seeing that a 4 foot tree at Costco was about $250. The ornaments were expensive there, and one stocking was about $25, so I was beginning to think that our only Christmas decorations would be the die cuts that I made at school. 

can't you just hear Cade saying "cheese"?
I had heard that Namdaemun has a lot of Christmas decorations. Now, of course, I'd never been to Namdaemun, but I had directions via subway, and I was sure that we could get there without too much trouble. Then, last weekend when Eric and I went to the Lantern Festival, we drove by the craft and teacher supply store that the school hosted a trip to last summer. Eric had gone on the trip, but since it was in the afternoon and since I didn't have a classroom that I needed supplies for, I didn't go. I'd been asking him to take me because there were some craft items I wanted to get for the kids, but he wasn't sure he could remember how to get there. So, I was very thankful when I actually saw the store from the bus, as well as a few stores with Christmas decorations (that store is also amazing! Five floors of every craft and/or school item you can think of. Kennedy added a number of things to her Christmas list!). So, I was all ready to set out this weekend to see what we could find.

no, that is not my child in the picture...I was just lucky there was only one random person in this picture!
As you can see, what we were able to find were some seriously gaudy Christmas decorations. It would have been pretty hilarious if I hadn't seriously been looking for something that I could purchase and bring home. This is the outside of the store where we bought our tree, but the inside was just as chaotic and it was full of people (it only fit a total of 10 people in there, though).

that's Eric's "really? the other way?" face...if you thought he got lost in Stanwood...
I know. It looks just like every other picture of a Korean alley I have taken. I actually found a store last weekend in Dongdaemun that had Christmas decorations, too. I picked up a strand of 100 lights for about $20, and again, I thought that would be all the decorations we would have. Jeez. Thankfully, the prices in Namdaemun were more competitive. We were able to pick up about a 3 foot tree for $25, two strands of 50 lights for $10, and two little boxes of ornaments for $5. What a relief!

while waiting for the bus

the kids were so excited that we got a tree...Cade literally could not wait to decorate it!

Only half the lights were on, but they got every single ornament onto the bottom half of the branches! It was kind of sad that the entire thing was done in about 5 minutes because we only bought 12 ornaments, but that's okay. The really sad part is not having the ornaments that Eric and I grew up with or the ornaments that the kids have been collecting in their short lives. For me, decorating the tree is more about the memories that every ornament brings back, but we are creating new, unique memories that can't be replaced. Our old ornaments will still be there whenever we decide to move back to the States.

The good news is that since it's so small, it didn't take me long to get all of the lights on and rearrange the ornaments after the kids went down for their naps!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Walker Hill Hotel

One of the perks of teaching in an international school overseas is the fact that you tend to be respected and appreciated a bit more than you are in the States as a teacher. In South Korea, in particular, teachers are very well respected and there tend to be great benefits when families that can afford to send their children to prestigious international schools appreciate the teachers at those schools. Last night we reaped the benefits!

the ice sculpture in the entrance when we arrived
One of these families has a son in the middle school and a daughter in the high school, so they hosted a dinner for the middle school and high school staff to show their appreciation for us. It was unlike anything I have ever seen before! Thankfully, we had warning that it was going to be fancy, so we dressed up (me in the only dress I brought that's too nice for school and Eric in one of his new suits). Yes, we did manage to find a babysitter. And we headed to school where they had arranged for a bus to transport us all to the Walker Hill Hotel (which they own--among other things). We actually ate in the same "villa" that the President stays in!

This year they did buffet style, but we've heard that in years past it has been more of a 7 course meal. We also heard that this year the dinner was a bit more relaxed allowing everyone the chance to mingle and feel comfortable rather than out of place (which I certainly appreciate!). We started with cocktails and then our hosts delivered a short speech before dinner was served. I think that there was nearly any food that you could think of in this spread. There was a pasta bar, a barbeque outside that had beef tenderloin, lambchops, kalbi, and ribeye steaks. There was a sushi and sashimi bar. All of these things were prepared right in front of you. They would ask you what you'd like and then put it on the grill for you. There were many different types of salads, breads, rolls, and antipastos. There was a shark fin and crab soup. There was grilled eel, fried chicken, and mayonnaise shrimp. There was more food than I ever could have tried, but we all did our best...I think Eric had 4 full plates and I had 3 less full plates.

Eric enjoying his wine and Bennett being himself
The best part may have been the desserts....or they may have just been the most photogenic...either way, who wouldn't enjoy a chocolate-topped cream puff sprinkled in gold flakes?! flakes...

my dessert plate and coffee...I kind of got the impression they would have brought me anything I'd asked for...I wonder if they could have made me a gingerbread latte?!

The evening ended with some wonderfully entertaining norebang (Korean for karaoke). Karaoke is huge here...a very regular past time for the younger crowd. A norebang is actually a small room where people can go to do karaoke with just their particular group.

these guys sang the final song of the evening, "Lean on Me", but everyone was very entertaining--you know how it goes--a lot of people with no ability to sing mixed in with a few very talented people!

and the evening ended with the cake they sent home with us...I had to get a picture of it in front of our Christmas tree last night...because of course they hadn't provided enough yet, we each needed our own cake to take home with us!

I don't think we've ever felt so appreciated!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

I even made some of my traditional appetizers...roasted garlic and caramelized onion crostini, parmesan garlic toast points, herbed cream cheese cucumbers, and carrot sticks for the kids...
For the most part, I feel like we've been adjusting really well. We've had some homesickness from time to time, but that's to be expected. The end of this week, though, with the first real holiday in the States being celebrated, has resulted in some real homesickness for me. The kind that brings tears to my eyes. It's easy to talk big about the adventures we're experiencing and the benefits of our new lifestyle, but the reality of homesickness can't be ignored all the time. It's hard to miss those big holidays with our own family and friends that we have taken for granted all these years.
another international Thanksgiving...Koreans, Canadians, and Americans
We are extremely thankful for the new friends and family we have here. We had Thanksgiving with one of the (few) American families that lives in our apartment complex (the rest are Canadian). They have a big family and their kids love to play with and take care of our kids, so we're thankful for their close proximity and their (Southern) hospitality. We even got to have turkey (which is very difficult to find here) fully prepared from the base.
Cade was impressed with the curly Cheetos Puffs purchased on base

Janie thinks our kids are adorable...

We are also very thankful for the technology that allows us to see and talk to our family back home (even when it doesn't work perfectly). It was great to be able to lounge around in our pajamas in bed and be able to chat with all of you. We hope that you all had a great Thanksgiving, as well!
 Wii dance party...

 Eric's card games made him feel right at home....

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sightings in Seoul

It's been a while since I've done this, so I thought I would share a few more observations with you. There are a number of things that I feel like we're starting to get used to...before I get so used to them that I don't even notice any more, I need to write down a few of them. So, here you go...
1. There are no public garbage cans along the street. It's really annoying to me. It seems like with the kids, we have always have something to throw away, but there is never a place to throw anything away. I recently read that because of the garbage problems in Korea, they don't use public garbage cans as a way to reinforce the fact that your garbage is your problem. The problem with that idea, is that people throw it on the street instead. There isn't a ton of garbage everywhere (see #2), but I still don't think it's working.
2. The ajummas (essentially grandmothers) feel it is their obligation to walk the streets and pick up the garbage. They are always pulling around these wooden carts full of garbage and recycling. Apparently it's acceptable for the younger generations to litter and for the older generations to pick it up. I don't understand. I'm not Korean.
She is selling already prepared food. These are usually out on the weekends. People take this food home and serve it.
3. There is food for sale everywhere! Fresh vegetables and fruit are for sale on the backs of trucks. Those trucks tend to have loudspeakers on them, and the same Korean phrases are repeated over and over again. I really wonder how often a person hears the announcement and decides to head over to the produce truck. Then there are the little stands (or again the back of a truck) that sell things like dried fish (little tiny ones!) and freshly grilled squid (they literally take them right off the coals and hand them to you) for snacking along the street. 
Apples (which are surprisingly good), clementines, and tomatoes (Korean tomatoes are rarely red)
4. Korean women wear heels with every outfit regardless of what hill they are walking up or down or where they are going. I will never look like a local because I refuse to do this.
5. Our children get a ton of attention regardless of where we are. Someone is always looking at them. We can't get on the bus without someone giving them a piece of candy. They are going to have a hard time when they don't get that much attention in the States!
the "03" bus that we ride most often--it goes through our neighborhood and to E-Mart
6. Koreans eat a lot of Spam and processed cheese. I can't help but think it's weird. 
7. Kimbap (similar to sushi) has some strange ingredients. I like the kinds with just vegetables, but when they throw in their dried salted fish, or the "gourmet" version with processed cheese, I'm not a fan. 
8. Police cars always have their lights on and it never has any meaning. You just get used to it. Tow trucks sometimes turn on sirens. That doesn't seem to have any meaning either.
9. You see more men carrying purses than women and sometimes their pants are tighter, too. The funny thing is that the girl will have nothing in her hands and yet, he is still carrying her purse for her. How sweet, right?
Here's a guy holding a purse, but it's also a good example of the many alleys here that buses and trucks drive through at speeds that seem impossible. The parked cars and pedestrians in no way impede their ability to drive through narrow alleys.
10. Korea is one of those countries that has no regard for personal space. I'm starting to get used to it when I'm around people. What I can't get used to is the same practice with cars. They leave NO room between bumpers and everyone keeps their side view mirrors folded in. Many of the roads are only one lane, but one never knows which direction to go, so you will often see cars come upon one another in the opposite direction and one of them will have to back out of the incredibly narrow alley. And while they usually drive on the right, they have no problem going to the left if it gets them where they want to be faster!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Not Me! Monday

Mckmama- Not Me Monday

I did not spend the entire last week looking for a bag of deodorant that I evidently did not bring with us. Because I most certainly did not put it in a place where I absolutely can not find it. I am always so organized that I would not put it somewhere that does not make sense. And now, I must spend the big bucks to buy deodorant (though I have not been able to find it yet!) because I can not possibly go 6 months without it! And, I could not possibly ask my family to send me some if they happen to be sending us a package any time soon!

I did not sign Eric and myself up to go to a fancy dinner at a fancy hotel next weekend even though I had not arranged a babysitter. And, I did not get a babysitter for this weekend so that Eric and I could enjoy the lantern festival without worry of losing our kids because we absolutely would not lose our kids in the crowds that are everywhere here in Seoul. We do not ever get overwhelmed by the crowds!

I have not been feeling uber-frustrated by the fact that Cade--who was doing so well at going to the bathroom last week--is now refusing to use the toilet. It's not me who wishes that this whole potty training thing would just be done! And it's not me who is complaining that my son--who has a terrible cold right now--won't just magically be potty trained without the hard work that goes into it. Not me!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Seoul Lantern Festival

Yes, we had another busy weekend! Saturday morning I went to Baking Alley, got home in time to feed the kids an early dinner, and then we took them to the twins' house to hang out for the evening. We almost decided it wasn't worth it because Cade hasn't been feeling well, and I knew that just the walk to their house would be tough on him, but when I mentioned staying home (or doing anything other than going to their house), the kids let their unhappiness be known. Since I had an agenda as well, we bundled up and headed out.

We dropped the kids off and headed out knowing where we were headed but not entirely sure of how to get there. I knew that if we headed northeast from their house, we would run into the Hyatt Hotel, and that if we got on the 405 blue bus heading north toward Seoul Tower, we would run into the Cheonggyecheon in Myeongdong eventually. We managed to walk to the bus stop pretty easily considering you never know when you're going to run into a dead-end alley, and we decided to get off the bus when we saw all of the people--that tends to be a safe bet if you're heading to an event of some kind. I knew there would be a lot of people, but I'm always surprised by just how many people there are!

Cheonggyecheon (click the link for more information about it) is a stream that runs through downtown Seoul and is beautiful both day and night. For about a week each year the Lantern Festival is held right in the stream. You wait in long lines to walk down alongside the stream itself, but it's worth it when you get up close to the amazing lanterns.

 the stream starts at the "Candle Fountain"

 this looks just like the gateways we saw on our trip last weekend

 the detail in these is astonishing

each one had a sign explaining what it was and it's significance, but in an effort to keep things moving, we did not stop to read many!

 it was beautiful, though!

There were many more...the stream is 11K long...but we were hungry and didn't want it to be too late when we went to get the kids. So, we had some Thai food for dinner and then began the adventure of getting home. You just never know when you get off a bus if this is going to the time when it does not come back in the other direction! Thankfully, we have our phones and some experience, so we were able to hop on one that took us back where we needed to go, but it's always a little stressful! Now that we know what to expect, we'll have to take the kids with us next year. You are welcome to come along, as well!
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