Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Order calms


I am so overly organized.  I remake lists to make them neat.  Everything has its place, and everything has a secondary place for where I put it when I don't actually feel like putting it "away" (i.e. "properly").

Sometimes this drives Husband crazy.  He can't find things because I've put them "away".  (Ironically, the one thing I can never seem to remember where I've put it away is something Husband would never lose: my Leatherman.)  He protests with good reason.  I defend my OCD tendencies.  You get the picture.  We laugh, we love, and it all works out at the end of the day.

Recently I organized Husband's closet.  This was a brave move on my part because it's his closet, but I proceeded boldly because, after all, I'm the one putting the laundry away.  I told him what I was doing and said it was to make his life easier.  Lucky day for me, he was grateful because

Order Calms.

He reminded me that we really should get a painting/picture/print made (because they do that kind of thing for the cheap here in Korea) like the one Mrs. Head had in the downstairs bathroom, the room with the delicate antique hand mirrors on the wall and tins of long-time-ago toiletries on the shelf.  These wise words are why we cherish it:

Listening to your heart, finding out who you are, is not simple.
Order calms.
Live what you believe - make your whole life your art.
Nothing you are doing is wasted time.

I didn't know until recently how much Husband also cherished this simple piece of art in the Head's downstairs bathroom.  He said, "I used that bathroom a lot," which translates to: 

"I spent so much time at Colonel and Mrs. Head's house during those big, hard, formational years while I was at the Academy.  I'll always remember, love and respect them for the magnitude of their hospitality, wisdom, knowledge and joy.  Rereading these simple words, I remember their legacy, and my life is better because of their presence in it."  

And I couldn't agree more.

First snow and downtown song tan

I wasn't sure if Korea would be more cold/dry or cold/wet.  I heard both before I arrived here.  So far it has only snowed once and it was just a dusting with a snowy haze that stayed around throughout the morning.  I heard they got quite a bit of heavy snow earlier this winter.  I was just as pleased with the dusting though.  It made everything pretty, sparkly white for a while

We've been exploring the town more every weekend.  Getting to and around the base is no problem now, and I can navigate the downtown area fairly well.  So far I haven't been outside of Songtan since I arrived, but it's nice to start to be familiar with the city.   

The common description of Korea is "not quite right".  Case in point:  The Red Face.  Ever heard of The North Face, anyone?  Yes, this would be a total and complete knock-off.  Even the products inside are almost exactly like The North Face.  Trademarks mean nothing here.  Logos are just thought of as pictures here.  You can even get a hat from a street vendor with Ralph Lauren, Nike, and Adidas logos all together on it.  The same also goes for replicating store names.  This JCPenney is no coincidence!  

We had dinner the other night at a lounge.  It was just as smokey as the picture looks unfortunately, but you never can tell quite what you're walking into here.  The meal made up for it!

Teriyaki chicken!  It was the best teriyaki I've ever had!  The snacky thing next to my drink appeared to be peanuts.  I have no idea what they actually were best guess was Peanut Butter Captain Crunch.  They were tasty:)

Another night Husband and I went out with friends for beef bulgogi.  That was delicious, too!  I should have taken a picture of our table setting.  The metal pipe on the side of the picture is a vent because directly under it is a gas barbecue.  The marinated beef was cooked there.  We also had rice, salad (medium-sized green/purple lettuce leaves mixed with chili sauce and ?), and bachan.  Bachan is a variety of small amounts of "side dishes" served in tiny bowls.  They are meant to be shared by everyone at the table, and ours included lettuce leaves, soy sauce glazed and cooked strips of tofu, bean sprouts, kimchi, macaroni salad?, chili sauce, garlic, glassy looking noodles, and I may be missing others.  We also had rice on the side served in a small steel pot.  By the way all the pop bottles are glass.  They have Hangul print on them, but we still understand the Coke logo:)  

I don't know if it's this way in other Asian countries, but in Korea never stick your chopsticks or other utensils straight into your rice (or presumably any other part of your meal) and leave them there.  It is considered disrespectful.  Just thought you'd like to know:)

Husband is working LONG days.  It's so nice to get to enjoy the weekend together!

Coming soon:  Soju and other escapades.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

First impressions


These are some of the first pictures I took in Korea.  I took them while on a walk -perhaps my first walk- and they are in general order of the walk, starting at my apartment.  They will probably seem really random (they are) and you'll be thinking "What in the world am I looking at?" (so was I).  

I'm not going to describe each picture.  You know almost as much about this place as I do.  Just take note of the fact that Korea does not have any apparent zoning laws:  residential, business, and agricultural land uses are all mixed together.  Also, it's a small country -roughly the size of Indiana- so they use every inch of space available to them.  Things often look -for lack of a better word- trashy, and in a way they are.  The reality though is that they are just using and reusing what they have.  Our lives might look much the same if were in the same situation.

 Lots of dead cabbage and other vegetables.  I finally know exactly what a chinese cabbage looks like, or at least a dead one.  All of this produce and rice is going to be beautiful in a few months!

Now we're back to the apartment, home sweet home:)

The area around us is basically rice paddies, dairy farms, a few businesses, and several apartment complexes.  It's an unusual (for me) mixture, and it so weird to have pumpkins growing next to the parking lot and herbs alongside the road, but it really works here.  I'm glad you came by to see what it looks like here.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Talking big

I talk big about food. I always have a new idea about a dish to make or how to put a new spin on an old favorite. It's sort of a hobby of mine.  I (used to) blog a lot of recipes (few of them have made it here lately), and some people assume I always make a delicious home-cooked dinner for my my husband and I.  Let me assure you with tonight's example that is certainly not the case. I am no Giada De Laurentiis and I don't expect you to be either.

I just went to the grocery store this afternoon. By the time I came home, sat on my butt for an hour, and went for a quick run though, I had no motivation to cook.  I hope you also appreciate that pile of grocery bags and stack of papers in the back of the picture...just keeping it real:)

I had a whole list of possible meals that I had just bought all the ingredients for, but everything was too time and task intensive.

Nothing was thawed.

We don't have many dishes and I've been washing forks as needed since Tuesday, so virtually everything was going to require washing all the dishes first.

I was hungry now.

I don't have the car so nothing is close enough for take-out.

The result: a dinner of cinnamon rolls (I bought them for Saturday morning, but oh well) and eggs-over-easy. I had a glass of milk, too, and I'm supposed to have that apple on the counter...

It was glorious!  Really, it was a delicious combination of sweet and savory.

Is there anything you talk big about?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Your weekend brunch

I guess I'm in the mood for breakfast foods today.

This morning I made oatmeal.  Doctoring it up makes it so delicious, but it's also really easy.  All I did was add milk, chopped apple, cinnamon and nutmeg to a packet of instant maple and brown sugar oatmeal.  Heat it in the microwave for about a minute and a half.  I'm sure it would have been even more amazing with plain oatmeal and actual maple syrup.  (I'm working on reducing the amount of sugar I eat.  It has been hard with the leftover birthday cake around!)

This afternoon there weren't any leftovers for lunch so I decided to make an omelet.  

1 whole egg, 2 egg whites
2 slices roast beef
1 slice salami
1/4 cup shredded cheeses (I used a Mexican blend and shredded parmesan)
1 cup leftover vegetables or steamed frozen vegetables of your choice (I used leftover corn and steamed frozen broccoli)

1.  Whisk eggs together until well combined.  Spray skillet with oil, heat on medium low.  Pour in eggs and cook until there's just a little bit of runniness left on top.

2.  Meanwhile, slice meat and vegetables if necessary.

3.  Sprinkle eggs with salt, pepper, and cheese.  While the eggs are not yet done, top one half of them with the meat and vegetables.  Using a spatula, fold the side of the eggs with just the cheese on it on top of the side with the meat and vegetables.

4.  Cover and cook for another minute or two, just until the eggs are lightly browned, the cheese is melted, and the filling is piping hot.

Thanks to the salami and roast beef, I think I can probably even talk Husband into this veggie-packed omelet!

If you make the omelet (it's big!) and oatmeal, you can probably call this a brunch for two.  Enjoy!

Revisiting thirty before 30

A year and a half ago I started a Thirty Before 30 list.  I guess I'm on the ball for starting so soon.  Apparently 30 was looking pretty imminent!  It's still a year and a half away though, and while I'm not anxious about it or anything, it is still in the back of my mind...especially now that Husband is down to 363 days in his year of being 29.

How is my list looking?  Not too shabby.

1. Sky dive.  (I think I'm going to change this one or at least postpone it to the next decade.  I thought this would be awesome as a shared experience, but nobody else wants to go!)
2. Travel abroad to a new continent.
3. Backpack anywhere.  (I love backpacking.  Hopefully we will find a place to go in Korea, although I've done enough walking in Korea so far that I'm thinking it might count for this!)
4. Start an IRA.  (I'm counting this as done because we decided Husband's IRA and me as his beneficiary was sufficient.)
5. Live in a house with a yard.  (Hopefully at the next base!)
6. Do a pull-up.  (Well, basically.)
7. Be 15 pounds lighter.
8. Have a baby naturally.
9. Run an 8 minute mile.  (I know I can do a 9 minute mile.  Hopefully I'll do some more practicing and training and nail this down this spring.) 
10. Contribute regularly to a cottage fund.
11. Own a dog.
12. Read the whole Bible.  (I made a plan for this today!  I hope I can stick to it!)
13. Go to a rock concert.
14. Master self-control with food.  (In three days I've had 6 slices of cake...plenty of room to grow -um, not literally, I hope- here.)
15. Tend a garden.  (Probably once I get that yard via #5.)
16. Learn to cook eggs well.
17. Help make maple syrup at G & G Miller's.  (Well, I didn't get to help make it, but I did get to revisit the sugar shack.  Getting to Remus at the precise time the sap is running would be really tricky considering I currently live in Korea.)
18. Go to Uncle John's Cider Mill in the fall.
19. Go on a hay ride in the woods.
20. Volunteer at a shelter for homeless people.
21. Train the dog.
22. Develop strong familial relationships.
23. Visit Alaska.  (I'm changing this one to Visit the Pacific Northwest by age 35.)
24. Visit California.  (And I'm changing this one to visit Colorado and North Dakota.)
25. Cook food from a new culture.  (I'm channeling Jenn...there is a Pho night coming up at our new church!)
26. Initiate and nurture female friendships.
27. Make a five course meal from scratch.
28. Scrapbook a week of my life (got this idea from a would be like a time capsule:).  
29. Write a children's book.  (My focus has changed.  Let's switch this to Build a children's education website.)
30. Love well more often than not.  (I don't think I feel comfortable actually ever scratching this off.  It's so on-going.)

There's nothing wrong with achievable goals!  Revisiting this list helps me clarify what I really want, and bring me back to the things that motivate, nurture, and inspire me.

Do you have a list?

If 30 or more is too much, try a list of goals that is more reasonable for what you actually want.  It doesn't have to have a name with a nice ring to it.  It doesn't have to have a name at all.  The point is just to live intentionally.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

This is our baby

This fuzzy, fluffy, curly dog is pretty much our baby.  Husband likes to remind me that the dog is a perpetual two-year-old. He will never outgrow this stage of being sweet and lovable, and also terribly needy and whiny at times.  I never thought I'd love a dog this much. Somehow though Charlie stole my heart so much so that sometimes I don't even care that he's a little Poodle lapdog.

Yesterday I mentioned that we talked about three big topics on Husband's birthday.

1.  Retirement Savings Plan:  We have this covered actually, and didn't talk about it last night. We did briefly talk about something related to it though -and I'm pretty sure you'll think I'm crazy for bring this up, but I was crying and so I did bring it up, but then there was laughing so it was okay (holy run-on!).  Because of how it fit into our conversation about #3, I told Husband about how sometimes I think about what I would do if I lost him. Yes, it's definitely scary and sad, but given his line of work, I feel the need to be real about this. I'm not going to dwell on it for sure -nothing good comes from that- but a certain amount of preparation that gives us peace of mind is actually helpful. And this isn't the first time we've discussed this, but I have thought about it some recently so I told him that if I did lose him, I would move to northern Michigan and drive his car around!   (We have an '07 Shelby GT stored there near his parents' house.)  He loved this of course!  We both did. 

2.  Refinance Your House:  So, we don't actually own a house.  In fact, we have been apartment-dwellers for years. We know for sure, however, that we want to own a cottage on a lake in northern Michigan one day.  Husband's parents own a place up there, and it is our favorite place to be.  Some of the neighbors/family friends may be selling their cottage soon, and if they are then they'd like to offer it to us -possibly for a deal- before putting it on the market.  This may be a real long shot, but it is also a dream so we have been crunching numbers to see how much house we might be able to afford.  If nothing else, this is at least getting us to get serious about our cottage fund.    

3.  Finally Start Having Kids:  I am an amazing conversationalist so of course -on Husband's birthday- I said, "If I tell you something, will you make fun of me?"  He made fun of me for asking the question and then said, "No, I won't.  I really want to know."  Reluctantly, I confessed, "I almost bought prenatal vitamins at the store today.  I looked at the labels though and they were almost the same as the regular vitamins, so I didn't."  He was stuck on the word "prenatal".  I added that some advice says women should take prenatal vitamins even before they're considering getting pregnant (as in, no, not trying yet, don't read too much into this, Family) to further protect against neural tube defects, etc.  Now he's stuck on "neural tube".  Husband is a really smart man, but I'm the one with a Human Development degree, not him.

I also confessed that I have been thinking about things like:  if you're going to have a baby during month X, then you need to get pregnant during month Y, and if you only want to be X months pregnant on your flight back to the States after a tour in Korea, then you need to become pregnant in month Y in order to actually give birth during month Z.  I'm pretty certain he's going to think I'm crazy.  Quite to the contrary, Husband says he's glad I'm thinking about these things because he isn't.  (Read:  "Thoughts about babies, their development, and when to have them don't come to his mind often," not, "I don't care at all about babies".)  

We know for sure our preference is not to have a baby in Korea.  Doing so would require me staying in Seoul for several weeks before the baby would be born, and hoping Matt is not flying -as to get to Seoul in time- the day said baby decides to be born.  Not to mention being by myself in a hotel room for weeks before delivery...I'm sure that would make me emotionally healthy to bring a new person into the world!  Dual citizenship has its perks though:)  Also, we want to travel, enjoy the nightlife, and fully participate in this great new squadron here in Korea.  Obviously these things can be done with a baby, but it would definitely be easier to do so while we're still a family of two.  We're a family of three if you count the Pup, and travel arrangements for him can be hard enough for now!    

All that said, we really have no set timing.  How can you, right?  I do hope to be expecting before we are moving again, but there are a lot of assumptions and unknowns wrapped into that equation.  (Man, if only you knew how squeamish I am to discuss these things!)

We want so much to trust God.  His good and perfect plan will prevail, and in Him we will trust.

"In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps."  Proverbs 16:9

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Husband had a birthday

Husband's birthday was yesterday. Yes, he's a "Valentine's Day Baby". No need to remind him. He talks about being annoyed in grade school that there was always so much pink and hearts on his birthday. I can't blame him. It's a lot of pink and hearts for anyone to tolerate, but especially for a boy on his birthday.

I try to mostly forget the Valentine part and make it all about Birthday around here. Still, no matter how many times I say "Happy Birthday" he always responds "Happy Valentine's Day".

My husband is a simple man. He doesn't need a lot of frills for a great birthday.  The recipe = gift + dinner + cake + together time. For the gift I got him the new VivoBarefoot running shoes he's wanted for months, which will replace his old worn-out pair. He was thrilled:) For dinner I made him a family favorite: Rita's Barbecued Hotdogs. The cake was devil's food with cream cheese frosting. Our together time...well, lucky for Husband, he got to fly yesterday. I'm thrilled he got to fly on his birthday!  It was his second flight here, and he got to see some pretty cool stuff. The only downside is he didn't get home until after nine. No problem though; we're pretty used to this. I reheated dinner and we celebrated happily.

When I was a kid, birthdays were simple like this. I got to choose a friend or two to come over. Grandpa and Grandma and sometimes aunts and uncles were there, too. Usually we had The Favorite Family Dinner {Mom's Sweet and Sour Pork Chops with mashed potatoes and corn}, followed by opening gifts, cake (just the regular boxed mix...I had chocolate every year), and ice cream. I like simple birthdays. Sometimes we go out to dinner, but the last time there was a party was the year we both turned 21. Maybe there will be a party next year to celebrate year number 30!

The year you turn 29, by the way, is apparently the year you start feeling old.  It's the last 20-something birthday. I'm still 28 for several more months and it feels like the last young, carefree year. Once you turn 29 people are asking about your savings for retirement, if you're going to refinance your house, and when you're going to finally start having kids. The clock is ticking, you know?

We talked about all three of these things last night - actually, but they will have to be the subject of another post. This one is all about birthday.

Happy Birthday Love!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Grand tour: Korean apartment edition

We moved in!  Pictures of the new home, everyone's favorite part.

This is our front door as seen from the inside of our apartment.  It's kind of tricky and narrow to get the view from the outside.  The door with the wooden frame is a sliding door.  Just past it is a foyer with a closet for shoes to the left (so much room for shoes, but no room for jackets...).  The door you see with the silver handle is the actual locking door to the apartment.  They have electronic door locks here, so we use a pass code instead of a key to get in.  The door opens to a hallway.  It's a three floor walk up, with us on top.  Parking is underneath the building (it's kind of on brick stilts), so it's six flights of stairs to get to our place.  I won't need to do a legs workout again for a long time!

When you walk through the front door, this bathroom is immediately to your left.  I think the toilet seat may be heated, but I haven't attempted translating the Hangul yet.

The bathtub is big and comfy. Everything is covered in tile with a drain in the floor.  There is also a faucet about knee high on the wall across from the sink...not sure what that's meant for.

Straight ahead when you come is our living room.  The floors are wood laminate throughout except for the tile bathrooms.  The walls are white -get this- sparkly.  I'm not even kidding.  You don't notice it right's not blinding or anything.  It's just kind of "not quite right" and hysterical that the walls and even some of the fixtures and cabinets have a definite glitter quality to them.  

The first left is the bathroom and the second left is the master bedroom.  The bed is platform style "Korean Queen" which is basically the same as an American queen.  There are three closet sections: one for Husband, one for me, and the third for randomness.

The master bathroom is connected to the master bedroom.  Watch your step entering.  It's about a 6 inch step in and out of the bathrooms.  I think this is because of the traditional Korean style shower, which only this bathroom has.  Look closely and you'll see the shower head in the upper left corner of the picture.  It hangs over the sink and when you use it -not that I've tried yet- the whole bathroom is your shower.  Good luck!

Exiting the master bedroom, you come back through the living room.  The tall white box in the corner is not a refrigerator.  It's an air conditioner!  All the furniture came with the apartment.  I'm so glad we brought our rug.

 Charlie's glad we brought our rug, too!  It took him a few days to get used to the hard floors.  For a while there he was just hopping between rugs.  He didn't want to jump on or off any furniture because he was afraid of slipping.  Husband bought Charlie this squeaky duck, which totally makes up for the lost toys in Michigan.  It is his favorite now!!  It reminds me of the old Nintendo game Duck Hunt.

Passing the living room on your left, next comes a wide open space that we don't know what it's for would be great for parties.  There's a water cooler to the right of the frig.  The frig by the way has a little trap door for easy access to milk and other things you want within arm's reach.  

 Just before you reach the dining table is a door to the left, which is the office.  It came with a desk, chair, and bookshelf.

Keep walking through the kitchen and dining area and there is a third bedroom to the left.  We have the TRX hung there and a bunch of boxes inside the room.  Straight ahead with the sliding doors is the laundry room.  It has a drying rack suspended from the ceiling with a pulley to bring it down when you're ready to hang things on it.

The washer/dryer is an all in one unit.  While it takes a few hours to do a load, it works well.  I'm still not sure what most of the settings are (will be working on that because I just about shrunk most of my jeans), but we have a translated cheat sheet for some of the options.

Exiting the laundry room, the kitchen is on your left again.  It's sweet and simple, but just what we need.  I really like the modern design.  The dish drainer above the sink is so handy!

The first dinner in a new home is always Sloppy Joe's for us.  It's easy, good, and simple.

The gas range was pretty easy to operate, but the oven was a different story.  I converted the Celsius to Fahrenheit, but my broccoli was still frozen after twenty minutes.  Apparently there is no pilot light, so you have to push in the knob first to get the gas burning.  Good thing I didn't fume out the place.  We kept the fan on the rest of the night just to be sure.

This is the view from the kitchen and dining room out towards the rest of the house.  The foyer area is on the left, followed by the doors to the bathroom and master bedroom.

We have great built-ins in the dining room.  The light fixture is strange because it, too, is sparkly, and it also has stars, moons, and hearts on it!  I would have adored it in fifth grade.

This may be the best part of the whole place: our new Keurig coffee maker.  It is fun, easy, and delicious.  Come over and I'll make you a cup:)

It's starting to feel like home around here now.  Thanks for coming by for a visit!

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