Monday, November 28, 2011

a boost for the metabolism

Do you remember the free detox this summer?  Those days seems long ago.  These days it is cold here.

So instead of a free detox, my metabolism is getting a nice little boost.

I am pretty sure that just being cold ups your metabolism because your body is working harder to stay warm.  And if that does not do it, then running in place to try to stay warm and entertain your students definitely gets some extra calories burning.

How perfect that the time to freeze time to boost your metabolism and the holidays come all at the same time. I am pretty sure that means I can have second helpings of pumpkin pie, right?

Praise the Lord that I have a warm bed (with lots of covers and someone to snuggle with), my super hero suit (i.e. a whole layer of shiny spandex that I wear under my clothes to help me stay warm at school) and lots of warm beverages to drink.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving Afternoon - fresh kimchi

So I have already told you about our Thanksgiving Day.  But ya'll definitely need to hear about our Saturday afternoon!  This will be a memory that I hold onto for probably the rest of my life.

After feasting upon American foods, some of us decided to take a walk to enjoy the gorgeous day.  (We were out in the country, not the city, got to breathe in that fresh air!)

As we were walking, one person noticed a Korean man carrying a heavy bag of rice from his truck to his house and several more lying in the truck bed. Taking note that there were 4 other men that could make his load a bit lighter, we offered to help, and the man said he only needed one more, but sure, he'd like the help.

The family soon invited us all into their courtyard where we discovered the event of the day: Kimjang, the time of the year when family, neighbors, and friends gather together for a few days and make the kimchi they will eat for the year ahead.  It's a big job, usually involving 100-200 heads of cabbage, depending on the family size, and lots of time preparing materials, washing, stuffing spices between leaves, etc.  These sweet women responded with a mixture of surprise and delight at the sight of a handful of foreigners in their courtyard, but it didn't take long for their generosity to extend to us in very tangible ways.

Before I really knew what was happening, the women were hand-feeding everyone fresh (un-fermented) kimchi.  Fresh kimchi is spicy!  And I had to eat all of it, as the women stuffed put it all in my mouth for me :)

My fresh kimchi taste testing
The amazing hubs got in on it too
 And the Koreans, being the generous people that they are, sent some kimchi home with us!

Thanks Melody for capturing these funny memories in pictures!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just a quick recap of our Thanksgiving:

5:43 AM Turkey trot began.  I came in first and last place.  I may have organized the race as well.  And the race started outside the door of our apartment.  It ended there as well.  It is not Thanksgiving without a Turkey Trot.

7:50 AM: left for school, carrying half an apple pie (from Costco) and 15 pumpkin chocolate chips muffins
8:20 AM: arrived at school, my arms were so sore and my hands were cold :)

8:23AM: dig into the food with my coteachers

1:20PM: Student: "Alissa-Teacher does that taste like spaghetti?"  Me: "No, green bean casserole taste nothing like spaghetti."

2:40PM: finish off the the apple pie and pumpkin chocolate muffins (with my co-teachers of course!)

3:58PM: Finish writing my 100 things I am thankful for list.

4:30 PM: Head home.
5PM: arrive home

The rest of the day: ate chili for dinner, I did some grocery shopping, my amazing husband made cinnamon rolls, I caught up on the Biggest Loser and made sweet potato casserole from scratch.

It was a great day.  This weekend we will be celebrating Thanksgiving with some other waygooks....bring on the turkey!

2011 Thankfuls

Every since I was like 9, I have written a list of 100 things I am thankful for on Thanksgiving. The tradition began one year when I was bored while riding in the car to Grandma and Grandpas. It is one of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving now.

Thankfuls for Thanksgiving 2011:
1.) God, his love, his wisdom, his mercy, His plans
2.) Costco – it makes Thanksgiving in Korean WAY better
3.) Jesus, the Author and perfecter of our faith
4.) Christmas music – it makes every season in Korea way better
5.) My amazing husband, he is so great!
6.) My bike
7.) Friends who skype or email or snail mail or do whatever necessary to stay in touch
8.) Family who sends the most amazing care packages ever
9.) Time to reflect
10.) Sister-in-laws who are more like sisters
11.) Garmin running watch
12.) Family who remembers every holiday and sends us a card (that is you, Grandpa and Kathryn!)
13.) Homemade pizza
14.) The miracle oven (after living for 14 months without an oven, I am SO thankful for this)
15.) Sunshine that comes in the windows dries the clothes, and makes the clothes all nice warm, like they just came out of the dryer.
16.) Learning how to make my own pumpkin puree from scratch
17.) Figuring out how to stay warm during the winter
18.) My amazing husband making cinnamon rolls for us!
19.) Decaf Coffee
20.) snow
21.) God moving us to Korea
22.) Soft hearts
23.) Being able to go to America this summer for a visit
24.) A warm bed
25.) God’s faithfulness
26.) Hot chocolate mixed with coffee
27.) My amazing husband always sharing bites of his food with me!
28.) The Holy Spirit, and his spirit of truth
29.) Fellow waygooks
30.) Running partners, past and present
31.) Facebook, skype, pinterest, blogs, and other forms of technology
32.) Online radio
33.) Free printables
34.) Knowing more Korean right now than I did a year ago
35.) The beauty of mathematics
36.) Being fit, healthy, and strong
37.) Journals
38.) kimchi
39.) Running shoes that fit
40.) Being able to watch The Biggest Loser even though I am not in America
41.) A beautiful walk to and from school everyday
42.) Kleenex
43.) Cute, adorable, Korean children eating with chopsticks at lunch everyday
44.) Bibimbap, popensue, jangjang myeon, sangupsal, and all other Korean foods that I LOVE
45.) 537 lovely days of marriage and many more to come!
46.) Laughing with coworkers
47.) A spring marathon to look forward to
48.) Electric blankets, space heaters, and really thick socks
49.) Finding community
50.) Rice heat packs
51.) the pure bliss of licking the spoon with batter on it (I forgot how delightful this was, when we were sans oven)
52.) God’s provisions
53.) Anticipation…the best is yet to come
54.) Waking up after a night of full restorative sleep
55.) My Verse of the Day girls (love you!) and your accountability
56.) Those fish cake things that you buy on the street
57.) Learning to live without and being content
58.) Peanut butter
59.) Korean ATMs
60.) Clean water
61.) The change of each season
62.) The Heavenly Homemaker – I love this blog ( J
63.) English is my first language
64.) American sized coffee mugs
65.) American sized anything
66.) Books in English
67.) Board games and friends to play them with
68.) A big enough apartment to have more than 2 people over at a time
69.) Paper snowflakes
70.) Discovering new Christmas music
71.) Emmanuel, God with us
72.) Online sermons
73.) Being able to choose to run inside or outside
74.) Hand sanitizer
75.) People that are creative and pass their creativity along to me
76.) Being young, without responsibility (footloose and fancy free ya’ll)
77.) Libraries
78.) Warm, cute slippers
79.) English speaking churches in Korea
80.) Emart bulgogi pizza
81.) Learning flexibility
82.) Learning creativity
83.)’s ability to know the weather in Korea
84.) Bags, bags, and purses
85.) Crockpot
86.) Blender
87.) Getting bit by the craft bug…and loving it
88.) Those times when you find something really funny and want to laugh, but you are supposed to be working, so your whole body is shaking and you starting snorting and crying (does this only happen to me?)
89.) Hugs
90.) Inspiring quotes
91.) Those photo booths that make stickers that you can Korean-ify
92.) Cute clothes
93.) Lemon tea
94.) Puppy chow
95.) The Word
96.) Nike tempo running shorts
97.) Cute adorable Korean children
98.) Homemade pumpkin pie blizzards
99.) Christmas cards
100.) Christmas decorations

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Our Weekend Trip to Tokyo: the Details

Confession: I am actually writing this post in January 2012 and not November 2011.  Sorry about that.  Better late than never.

Here are some details of our trip that I really want to remember:

Christmas - oh man!  Tokyo had Christmas trees, Christmas lights, and a Christmas feel to it!  I was amazed how "Christmasy" everything felt!  Koreans do not put up any decorations until about a week before Christmas.  Here we are 6 weeks out and there are decorations everywhere.  It made the Christmas part of my heart SO happy.

European feel:  In Tokyo, you walk on the left side of the sidewalk, you drive on the left side of the street, cars have the steering wheel on the opposite side of the car etc.  I have never been to Europe before, but Tokyo seemed way more European than Korea.  The architecture was definitely Asian, but after living in Korea, it was easy for us to spot the hints of European influence in the buildings and design.  We were confused the whole weekend about what side of the street we were supposed to be on and why people were actually walking in orderly fashion. (Koreans just walk on whatever side of the street they are on.  If you are younger than the person you are approaching, it is your job to get out of their way.  Not organized at all in my brain - I digress.)
Thanks Google Images

$, won, yen  - my math brain was at work all weekend.  It is quite easy to convert US dollars to Korean Won (1,000 won = 0.86 US dollars - I just use a 10 to 9 ratio).  Converting from Won to Yen or US dollar to Yen is a nightmare for me (100 yen = 13 US dollars or about 15,000 won).  100 won is CHEAP 100 yen is NOT cheap.  Lesson learned.  One cool aspect about Japanese Yen is that some of the coins have holes punched in the middle of them.  If it is has a hole it either 5 yen or 50 yen.  And finding coins on the ground is jackpot (think of finding 6 dollars on the ground)

Reading Japanese: This was hilarious to me!  My amazing husband and I developed a way of reading the subway maps (that were ONLY in Japanese, thankfully we had printed off an English translation before hand.)  Our conversations went something like this, "what stop do we want?"  "the one that is like an asterisk, then a d in Korean, a window, and then a y in English".  Some of the symbols looked very Korean and some did not look like any letters I have ever seen before in my life.

Fat People:  I definitely thought that all Asian were thin.  In Korea saying that an individual is fat is the same as saying he or she has brown hair.  It is a physical appearance trait - it is not an emotionally charged, offensive comment.  Koreans are thin.  I can count on my hands how many times I have met overweight Koreans.  There are fat people in Japan.  I stared at them (I am SO Korean).  I was just surprised to see this.

Bathrooms:  Oh goodness!  The bathrooms in Tokyo were so confusing.  Case-in-point: The toilet has 14 buttons on it, but NONE of them are to flush.  The action of opening the stall door triggers something to flush the toilet.  (WEIRD).  Also, most of the toilet seats I encountered were heated.  God Bless Japan and it's heated toilet seats.  Asians do NOT heat their bathrooms all that much - which results in many a cold bathrooms trips for me.  Heated Toilet Seats are Great.  Korea  My school should invest in more of them.

Not the clearest picture, but just in case you have not experienced the 14 button toilets

And that is about it!  All the fun details that I rememeber from our Tokyo Trip!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Our Weekend Trip to Tokyo!

About two weeks ago, we realized we both had this past Friday off school.  We checked (just to see) how much plane tickets were to Jeju Island and Tokyo.  Plane tickets to Tokyo were cheaper, so we decided to go to Japan for the three day weekend.

Sometimes I read people's blogs and think, "Wow!  They have an awesome life."  And God has blessed many of us with incredible lives!  At the same time, please do not think we have a perfect life.  One area of our marriage that we are working on is communicating while traveling.  We did not argue the whole time we were in Japan, but we did not have an absolutely perfect trip with no bumps either.  I just wanted to throw that out there.  {Note: most of the work in our marriage about traveling needs to be done by me.  Good thing I am married to a great husband who takes care of me and triple checks the map just to make me happy even though he knows he is walking the right way.}

Not that you have a realistic setting, let me share the fun details of our trip!

Hello Kitty driving her own tour bus = fun, right?

Our Friday morning started pretty early.  We were out the door before 6:30, headed to the bus terminal (which is conveniently located about 10 minutes from us).  I love public transportation in Korea.  It is great.  We were dropped off at the door of the international airport in Gimhae.  Our flight left on time.  We I made epic wishes at 11:11 (to make it to Japan safely).  We enjoyed some sushi and kimbap for lunch (how fitting to eat sushi while flying over Japan).  It was rainy so we had a turbulent landing.  Can I just say that 2.5 hour flights are WAY better than 10 or 15 hour flights!?!?!  Love that we did not even change time zones.  We found our hostel, and then set out for our great Tokyo adventure.  Somehow we ended up two blocks from the hostel in a grocery store.  They had brats! (brots? brauts?  How do you spell that word?) And they had cream cheese that was SUPER cheap!  Yeah, so we spent some time walking around the grocery store discovering long lost comforts of America.  I tried to keep doing the money conversations to see what was cheaper than Korea and what was more expensive.  After we finally made it out of the grocery store with tomorrow's breakfast in hand (still talking about the brots), we found a cheap yummy place to grab dinner.  That was our super exciting Friday. Travel, rain, brots, and going to bed really early.

Stay tuned.  I promise Saturday is more exciting!

Saturday morning greeted us with warmer temperatures and clear skies!  {Thank you, Jesus, that we did not have to explore Tokyo in the rain!!!}  Our first stop was the Ueno area.  We went to the Yushima Tenjin Shrine first.  We wanted to see a Japanese shrine/temple to see how they compare to the temples in Korea.

Main difference between a Korean temple and a Japanese one, there is less red paint and more neutrals and gold paint.  

Also, I had read that there was a chrysanthemum exhibit at this particular shrine.  They even had life size "dolls" (If you are reading this and you know Iris, I am pretty sure the dolls were Iris' cousins.)  made from flowers.
I am not sure why the man is missing a huge patch of hair.  

And a cute bunny and bear too.

After the shrine, we visited Ueno Park.  I was so happy to see Saturday morning runners out and about!  We even saw some teenage girls running!  (Girls/Women/Females of all ages do not really run in Korea, they just walk.)
I wish I could have joined in on the running.  This would have been so pretty to run around!

We also went to a library on Saturday (we were not planning on this, but it was part of the walk from the park to the cemetery so we stopped by.)  It is not everyday that we can go to the International Library of Children's Literature.  By the time we made it to Yanaka Cemetery, I was ready for a break.  So we sat, stared at the tombs and guessed what the wooden sticks with Japanese writing on them could represent.  I think there are some famous people buried at this cemetery, but I can not read Japanese so there was no hope of finding them.  Plus I was hungry for some lunch.

Notice the large wooden sticks with Japanese writing.  Does anyone know what that is about?
We ate udon noodles in beef broth for lunch.  Udon noodles are nice and thick.  And they are carbs,  so what is not to like?  After lunch, we found the Sony Building.  If you ever go to Tokyo, you should find this place.  (It is free!)  You can walk around and try out new products about to hit the market.  Technology is amazing to me.  I can not begin to fathom how people invent this stuff.  If it was up to my inventing skillz, we would still be using fire.

Next we went to the weird area of Tokyo Kabukicho.  This neighborhood has a lot of arcades and interesting stores.  We happened upon a dance contest.  It was so cute to see the Japanese kids dancing.  They were so good!  We found a sushi conveyor belt restaurant near here to eat dinner at.

Entrance to the Kabukicho neighborhood
The sushi conveyor belt restaurant is a cool experience.  Basically there is a big oval bar.  The chef stands on the inside.  Customers sit around the outside.  As the chef makes sushi, he plates it, and sticks the plates on the conveyor belt (that is going around the bar).  Customers take whatever plate (or plates) that they want.  Your bill is determined by the number and color of plates you took.  I am not a huge fan of sushi, but we enjoyed the experience.  I think our total bill ended up being less than 10 US dollars.  I am so thankful that the sushi came with rice and wasabi!  It was a much better experience than this sushi experience.

And that was our Saturday.

We did a lot less on Sunday.  We started our day at Starbucks and then headed to find a Flea Market.  We were well prepared with a subway stop and a map.  After walking around (for a long time in my opinion) and trying different streets, we decided that flea market either moved or does not exist anymore.  So we decided to go to a nearby area that was supposed to have a lot of antique shops.  We got to the neighborhood and there were no antique shops (can you tell how this day is going so far?)  So basically on Sunday, we walked, and walked, and walked some more.  We could have taken public transportation to eliminate some of the walking but we are parsimonious {read: we are doing Tokyo on a budget.}  By the time we found some lunch it was time to head to Tokyo station to start our journey home.  We did do a little bit of survivor shopping before leaving.

When we got to the airport and saw the lines for checking in and security, I thought we were going to miss our flight.  But we did not have to check in any luggage and the security line went faster than I anticipated!  It was so nice to hear Korean after a weekend of hearing just Japanese.  I love seeing little ones tottering around and shrieking "Oma!  Ab-bba!"  Korean children are seriously the cutest children in the world.  My amazing husband and I are becoming experts at flying internationally.  The last 7 or so flights I have taken have involved the customs declaration forms et al.  I remember being so freaked out on our honeymoon when I had to fill in the forms on the plane.  I think I asked a question to my amazing husband for every line that had to get filled in.

Anywho, we made it through customs and found our bus back to Daegu.  (sometime I will blog about the miracle of the bus ticket but for now just know it was a miracle that we made it back.)  We got back to our happy little apartment around midnight.  It was a packed weekend, but I feel like we got to see a lot of Tokyo and experience some Japanese culture.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Happy Anniversary!

I love wedding anniversaries!  They are so special - celebrating another 365 days of fun memories, love, respect, and everything else marriage.

Two years ago today my brother and sister-in-law got married!  Woot! Woot!

Love this picture from their wedding day!
One of the amazing things about my brother and sister-in-law is that they have been together forever (okay, not forever) but they started dating when my brother was 16 and my sister-in-law was 15.  How cool is that!?!?  I was 14 when they started dating.  I have gotten to grow up with my sister-in-law - not many people get to do that.  In some ways she is more like my big sister than my sister-in-law.  Anything I know about gf, Friends, hair, makeup, nails, and clothes comes from her!

I love my brother and sister-in-law.  They are such fun, hard-working people.  They have stuck together through so many highs and lows.  I hope after my amazing husband and I have been together as long as they have we love each other like they do.

Here's to many more years of happiness, bliss, and love!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Success - Apple Butter!

I made some apple butter this weekend.  It was SUPER easy.

Steps to making apple butter:
1.) Get applesauce out of freezer, defrost, put applesauce in blender and blend.

2.) Put now smooth applesauce in the crockpot.

3.) Add some sugar and cinnamon.

4.) Turn the crockpot on low.  (Note: I did not say put the lid on, you want to leave the lid off.)

5.) Wait 6 hours.  You can stir occassionaly within those 6 hours if you so desire.

There you go.  Apple butter.  I, in no way, came up with this idea.  I got it from here.

I served some for brunch today, everyone liked it.  Yeah!

Hope ya'll had a good weekend - if you live in the US of A (except Arizona and some parts of Indiana) I hope you enjoyed your extra hour of sleep!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Art Festival

So today we had a special day at school. (One of the best parts about teaching at an elementary school is all of the special days we have!)  It was Art Festival Day!  As of yesterday my job for art festival was to help the kids line up to go on stage.  (The kiddos take turns playing instruments, reciting poems, dancing, etc.).  I think my school wanted all the parents to see the waygook.

But then I got to school this morning and was told that my job had changed.  I "got" to stand near the art gallery  and "watch" it.  Yes, I stood for 3 hours and stared into space.  It was so boring.  Of course all the parents and grandparents that walked through the gallery had questions for me.  I did a lot of smiling and bowing.  And shrugging my shoulders.  There were some amazing pieces of art!

Check out these cross stitch pictures that some of the moms made!

The students contributed some art, the parents contributed some art (see above), and the teachers contributed some art.
Here is my awesome contribution.  I think it pales in comparison to the parents' submission.

I doubt that I will have the lovely opportunity to stand around for three hours and do absolutely nothing in my future jobs.