Saturday, September 28, 2013

What's for Dinner?

The latter half of our week was a little less exciting than the first half, thankfully. I did a little better actually taking pictures of our lives this week (okay, our food), so I figured I would grace you with a few lovely iPhone pictures.

I took my family to Haddon House, one of the biggest international markets here in Seoul. What a mistake. They were certain they needed everything! I was excited to find spinach, cilantro, and black beans.

Since my mouth was still a bit sore, I was still looking for soft foods. I made some cowboy caviar (which is much healthier when you have to use a fork, rather than chips as a vehicle) and Spinach Artichoke Dip pasta. Yum.

This week was Celebrate Korea days at school. Events like these always result in guilt for me--both as a mom and a teacher. What creative activity can I do in my own classroom to incorporate Korean heritage? What can I do for my kid's classroom?

I received loads and loads of "mom" emails asking for help with various projects in Kennedy's classroom. Of course, I couldn't really participate in any of them, but I was able to stick my head into her room for a few minutes between projects for my own classroom.

I updated my phone to iOS7. It didn't begin well. Took hours to update and then an error occurred and I had to restore the entire phone, but it turned out fine. I'm loving the update. I feel like I have a whole new phone!

On Saturday, Eric was supposed to have a baseball game in the middle of the day. My options were to send the kids with him where they would play in the dirt for a few hours, be hungry and cold, and surrounded by a bunch of guys who are drinking, swearing, and smoking--or I could take them with me to my soccer jamboree. There they had 30 middle school girls to play with, as well as 6 high school coaches to watch them. (Not to mention the fact that I am not actually on the field.) Needless to say, soccer won out. Kennedy had a great time photobombing as I figured out the new features on the iOS7 camera.

As it turned out, his game was cancelled yesterday, so he got to clean the house and get plenty of work done for school. He's making up for it by playing this afternoon on the other team. Unfortunately, I'm still not getting any work done.

The temperatures did drop yesterday. It never got over about 65 degrees and rained just a bit. I was in the mood for some nice, warm comfort food when we got home yesterday. Nothing says comfort like  a recipe with "supreme" in the title. Chicken Broccoli Supreme. It did not disappoint. A rich, creamy cheese sauce. Chicken, broccoli, Ritz cracker topping. Even the kids devoured it. Make it. Tonight.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Our Week

Sorry. Things have been quiet around here. Not around our house, of course, but here on the blog it's been quiet. And I can't even say why. Just quiet. Maybe it's because our lives just seem so peaceful compared to life in Nairobi. Or Peshawar. Or even Washington, D.C. And I'm pretty grateful for that.

We had a very restful five days off for Chuseok. That is primarily because I tend to be the one who says, "Let's go. Get out of the house. Anywhere!" But, when I'm the one laying in bed all day with a throbbing jaw and an awful headache, we don't tend to be too active. We watched a couple of movies: Silver Linings Playbook, Olympus Has Fallen (was that really released amidst all the turmoil with Enkay last spring?!), and Teach, the televised documentary. I would recommend all of them.

We finally left the house on Friday, having thrown out our plans to go the water park when Kennedy woke up throwing up on Thursday morning. She continued off and on throughout the day, so we figured we'd better keep things low key on Friday. Instead, we just headed to a nearby park just like It was busy! Kennedy was fine; apparently, she just had a quick bug--no fever or anything.

Saturday we managed to pick up some things for Kennedy's birthday party, though more stores were closed than we had planned on. It worked out okay, though. On Sunday, we finally caught up on some house work. My knees and back are still aching from all of the scrubbing I did. I can no longer say that I've never cleaned a bathroom in Korea.

The real fun began for us on Monday. Kennedy had a birthday party at the mall, so I picked up Cade and then went back to school to pick Eric and Kennedy. We had planned on dropping her off, picking up birthday presents for her, and then having dinner before we went to pick her up. Our plans were altered a bit when I didn't make a wide enough turn out of the school, and I hit the curb pretty hard with the back tire.

Sure, it didn't sound good, but we didn't think too much about it until later. By the time we got up into the parking garage at the mall, I could hear that all that was left of the tire was some floppy rubber. Thankfully, Eric was able to access the spare tire while Cade and I took Kennedy to her party.

We decided to just continue with our original plans, thinking that most places are open pretty late in Korea. We could get everybody back home and then Eric could take the car to a tire place. We were wrong. The tire place was closed by the time he got there.

That meant that on Tuesday, I had to cab it. So, of course it was raining! First, Cade and I walked up the hill to put him on the bus. Then I walked back home to pick up my stuff for school. Then I headed down the hill to one of the coffee shops to get a cup of coffee to break my big bill. That was only frustrating because I watched an empty cab pass by me when I didn't have small enough bills to pay him. I got my cup of coffee, juggling it with my computer bag and school stuff, and my umbrella. I got an empty cab without too much trouble and even managed to get in without spilling my coffee or dropping anything. Success.

I made it to school, taught my classes, and then headed back home to change clothes for soccer practice. After waiting for a taxi, I barely made it in the house to drop my stuff and change my clothes before I had to get back up the hill to pick up Cade. This time, the roads were dry and Eric had to take the car to get a new tire, anyway, so I figured the spare could handle the trip. Cade and I drove back to school. I walked down to the dentist (for the last time until I have to go back for a cleaning-yay!) and back again for soccer practice. Eric took the kids to go get a new tire.

It turns out that tires are one thing that Korean mechanics do not keep on hand, so after going to two places, he finally figured that we were just going to have to wait until the guy could get us one today. I managed to get the tire changed this afternoon (after only 5 minutes!), and I am finally able to eat solid foods again, so I would say that things are looking up around here!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Heading up Haleakala

Well, our Chuseok break has not started out with much excitement. I decided that since I have a few days off, I should finally get these last two wisdom teeth pulled. I had planned on doing it before school started, but my cold was so bad that I couldn't breathe through my nose. Nor could I last long without coughing. I almost let this little cold I have be a good excuse, too, but I can breathe just fine and my cough is pretty sporadic.

At least it's done now. Eric has done a great job of making me smoothies and mashed potatoes. Yesterday, I spent the entire day laying in bed, trying to sleep. He had made plans to visit a friend of our who is in the hospital going through chemotherapy, so the kids were on their own. They played Legos all day long and Kennedy prepared a healthy lunch of toast and cereal for the two of them.

Today, I'm determined to stay out of bed. Maybe even get out of the house. I have a feeling that I may have managed to glorify how I was feeling after the dental work I had done last spring. We have big plans to go to one of the water parks tomorrow, so hopefully I'll be feeling up for it by then!

I also have high hopes for all of the work that I am going to accomplish on this little break. Of course, I was hoping to get much of that work done yesterday when I wasn't getting out of bed, but that didn't happen since I could barely keep my eyes open.

These pictures are of our trip to the lavender farm on our way up to Haleakala. After lunch, we packed a little picnic and jumped into the car to drive up and see the sunset.

We stopped at this cute little lavender farm on the way up. It was a photographer's paradise, of course, but it is set up pretty well for kids, too. They immediately started on a scavenger hunt through the gardens to find various items and get their stamps. That is exactly the kind of activity that Eric needs when he visits places like this, too, so he led them around and made sure they got every single stamp.

I wandered around finding flowers to take pictures of and Evan and Jen enjoyed their lavender coffee and tea. After the kids finished, they went into get their prize--a box of lavender shortbread cookies. Yum.

We decided to save the cookies for our picnic, so that we could get warm lavender scones with marmalade. They were delicious!

We left the farm, heading further up the mountain. The roads are pretty windy up the mountain, so Jen didn't want to drive any more. She and Evan took the kids in a vehicle that they'd borrowed from friends, and Eric and I took their car. It wasn't long before I realized that I wasn't going to be able to the passenger any more. I'm not sure why I even tried, to be honest.

We eventually made it up into the park and stopped to have our picnic: a lovely assortment of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, grapes, and 7 layer dip, all followed by lavender shortbread cookies.

Then, we were off again, headed further up the mountain. As we drove, the clouds got thicker and the rain began. By the time we reached the parking lot just below the summit, we couldn't see anything. It was cold, rainy, and so cloudy that we could barely see any other cars. We were not going to be able to see a sunset from there.

The boys jumped out to see what they could see. A whole lotta nothin'. The women and children waited in the car. They returned shortly and we headed back down to the visitor's center where we had eaten dinner.

We had just dropped out of the clouds and as we pulled into the parking lot, the sky was turning orange. Clearly, we were back down around buildings as there are power lines going through the above picture.

Nonetheless, it was beautiful and I was glad we got to see it, even if it wasn't the original plan. Unfortunately, we hadn't made it much further down the road when Kennedy threw up because she was carsick. Clearly, we weren't going to be able to try this again, nor were we going to be able to attempt the road to Hana. Maybe next year!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Adventures in Mold & Maui

This weekend feels like the first time that we've been able to relax at home since school started. Soccer practice was cancelled Friday afternoon because of the thunderstorms. Baseball was cancelled Saturday morning as a result of the ongoing thunderstorms all night long. We. had. nothing. going. on. for one day and it was awesome! Eric is playing with his Sunday team since his game on Saturday was cancelled, and Cade has been throwing up for the past twelve hours, but other than that things are good around here. We're looking forward to a very short week and hoping that we can all be healthy when we return from Chuseok Break.

Sure, we have plenty to do here at home. But catching up on laundry (that's taking two or three days to dry because of the moist air!), cleaning the house, and catching up on grading are things I can handle when we actually have a day to do it!

We still haven't quite caught up on everything. We have yet to go out for our anniversary and our celebration for Eric's birthday consisted of our typical Wednesday night dinner with friends, except that Cade and I trekked into Itaewon in the rain to pick up a cake from Baskin Robbins, too. So, last night we went out to On the Border, our favorite Mexican restaurant, to celebrate Eric's birthday. The rain had finally stopped and it is a fairly easy trek via subway to the newest one at IFC Mall. Only one transfer and a straight shot from the station to the mall sounds easier than figuring out how to drive and park, so we went with public transportation. It felt strange for me simply because I haven't been on the subway since we arrived back this year.

Unfortunately, one of the reasons that we don't have much going on this weekend is because I skipped out on the high school retreat. So, there aren't any high school students around to babysit for us. We'll just have to put off a date for a bit longer, I guess. We're a month late as it is, what's a few more days?!

A few weeks ago, Eric looked at me and said, "You know what topic you should cover on the blog? Mold." Of course, I just kind of laughed and asked why on Earth I would want to write about mold. But, he seemed to think it would be a topic of interest and since he hasn't suggested a topic for the blog in about 18 months, I figured I had better oblige him.

First of all, mold just seems to be a part of life in Korea. And again, having never lived outside of western Washington, it isn't something we're accustomed to. Sure, the Pacific Northwest is wet, but it's very rarely hot and wet at the same time. Summertime in Seoul means that it is hot and wet. All. the. time.

Before we leave for the summer, we put any food that has even the slightest chance of growing mold into the refrigerator or freezer. Of course, we try to just eat everything before we leave. We don't go to Costco for about the last six to eight weeks. We stop buying groceries (except milk) for about the last two weeks, unless it's something very specific. Honestly, I kind of enjoy the challenge of figuring out ways to eat everything.

Then we load the freezer with the flour, sugar, and spices. Chocolate chips, brownie mixes, other baking supplies, and anything jarred goes into the refrigerator. Items like dried pasta and canned foods I bring in from our pantry and put into the kitchen cabinets. Anything to avoid foreign growth. It's become quite the routine.

When we arrive back here in mid-July, humidity levels are high. In spite of my preparations, we usually arrive to some sort of mold. This year, we were irritated that many of our appliances had grown mold on the outside of them--our rice cooker, coffee grinder, and waffle maker. Thankfully, nothing was on the inside and they were fairly easy (for Eric) to clean up. The food was still in good condition.

Others were not so lucky. Our neighbors, arrived home late and were ready for bed. When they pulled back the sheets, they discovered that their bed and pillows were covered in mold. Is there anything worse? I can't imagine being jet-lagged, tired, ready for bed and discovering mold. Horrific!

To make matters worse, when they arrived at school--to their brand new, purpose-built band classrooms, they discovered that there had been no air circulation in the room over the summer and the entire room, including the students' instruments were covered in mold. Can you imagine?

The food is a constant. We have to keep all of our bread products in the fridge or they will grow mold overnight (this is year-round). Vegetables grow mold in record time. I didn't even know that carrots could grow mold, but after a few days in our fridge, they do. Every fruit we buy grows mold in a couple of days. Even the apples grow it from the inside out. It's really quite frustrating. We can only buy enough food for two or three days before it goes bad.

Other, little things continue. The bathroom (even the floors) can grow mold overnight if it's too warm and someone takes a shower in the evening. The clothes can grow mold because sometimes it seems that they just won't dry. One of Kennedy's white polos was ruined early this school year because it was put away before it dried all the way. Irritating. When I pulled out our suitcases for the staff retreat a couple of weeks ago, they were all covered in mold. That was a new one. Thankfully, I was working ahead, so I had an extra day to clean them with a vinegar solution and let them dry before I had to start packing.

I'm not sure why he wanted me to share our adventures in mold with the rest of the world. Maybe so that you can appreciate life without mold? Maybe he didn't want us to forget that this is one of the many joys of living in Korea. Maybe so that you know that we all have our little challenges. At any rate, now you know. Mold sucks, but we're learning to battle it.

These pictures were from our little trek through the jungle in Maui. Evan and Jen hadn't tried any kid-friendly hikes, so we weren't exactly sure where we were headed. But, after a little trouble finding the trailhead, we had a nice walk through the trees. There were mountains, a bridge, a stream and large rocks, and a beautiful clearing. All of the makings of a good hike through the jungle!

The kids enjoyed the freedom of this trail (because we never really knew where we were going) and the fact that there was relatively no danger, so they could run, jump, and pass everyone without any consequences (like falling off the side of a mountain).

Afterwards, we wandered through the bamboo path, checked out the koi pond, and the Japanese gardens (though this building looks more like a Korean hanok than a Japanese pagoda). Unfortunately, I've already forgotten a lot of details from our trip to Hawaii, so it's a good thing I have a comprehensive record in pictures!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Expat Ramblings and Maui

At this point, it feels that it may be Christmas before I get finished posting all of the pictures from last summer. It makes me feel better that I didn't finish posting the summer pictures until the end of September last year, but it probably won't be any earlier this year.

This has been one of those weeks that flies by because we are so busy. No more busy than any of you, though, I am sure. I find it hard to believe that one day our kids will be playing sports constantly; it won't be our sports schedules dictating our lives any more.

Expat life has this strange aspect to it that I had never considered before, since I had never moved anywhere outside of Washington state before. Life is busy for everyone, right? But as an expat, I constantly find myself comparing our lives now to what they were before in the U.S. or what they may be in the future.

One of the books that I read before we moved encouraged us to not compare where we were to where we were going. In that time of transition before we actually arrived in Korea--after we'd rented out our house and were living in my dad's to finish out the school year--it was hard not to think that some things would be easier once we arrived here. We would all have bedrooms. And closets. And beds. Even though we knew that a lot of things would be harder, we thought that some things would be easier.

I don't think that I make these comparisons often, but it's in the back of my head. Were our lives this busy when we lived in Stanwood? Will they be this busy if we move back? What if we move to South America? Life's supposed to be laid back and slow-paced there, right? Yeah, right. Where in the world should we move to be perfectly content?

I can tell that I vocalize these thoughts more often than I realize when we're in the car and Kennedy says, "This would be so much easier if we were just in America." Uh oh.

I suppose it's natural at this stage in our lives, but sometimes I think that I had a little less to think about before we became expats. I won't even get started on my train of thought every time I do laundry. It's not pretty.

It has been uncharacteristically cool in the past week or so here. We have had a couple of cool soccer practices--something that has not happened in the past two years. We even had a practice this week where it rained for the entire hour and a half. And it was only about 72 degrees out. It was the first soccer practice that reminded me of the many that I had growing up. I suppose it's ironic since western Washington has had uncharacteristically warm weather in the past week!

These pictures are from our first day on Maui. We had a relatively easy trip there, in spite of the fact that I was completely convinced that we would miss our connecting flight in San Francisco because we only had a 30 minute layover (thanks to United airlines changing flight times after we'd booked our tickets). We ran to the gate with another family and we were off again!

On our first day, Evan had to work in the morning and Jen had a doctor's appointment, so we wandered around their neighborhood, enjoying the view.

Then we went to meet Evan for lunch and headed to the beach afterwards. The kids were loving the sand and all of the attention!

It's hard to believe that at this point, the kids had nasty coughs and I was just about to start getting sick. I feel like we've been sick most of the past two months! Hopefully, this is not an indication of how the rest of our year is going to be!
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