“Um, Can You Move It, Please?”

Sitting on the floor next to his computer, Good Man spots It. “Um, Amanda, is that a spider?”

I look. Sure enough, It is some sort of spider. I like spiders. They eat annoying bugs. And the spiders in our house (we have some tiny clearish-yellow ones and some black ones) are small and don’t build huge webs where I can see them. “Yeah,” I answer.

“Um, can you move it, please?”

I move the spider. “Far enough?”

Good Man shakes his head very slowly. “No.” I move the spider farther away, watching him until he begins to nod very slowly.

“Wow, Sis, You Can Cook” and $1/lb Limit Shopping

Saturday Good Man and I invited my brother’s family over for a nice dinner and some playground time with the nephew.

I never knew a cabinet was so darn interesting. Open the cabinet, take out a toy, close the door, clap and say “yay!” Open the cabinet, put the toy back inside, close the door, clap and say “yay!” Repeat 39 times in a row.

Dude.

I also never knew that a child could so easily destroy a living room. Before they came over, I found my childhood stuffed animals and kept them in the cabinet. All of them were on the floor, along with carrot sticks, books, and the bits of the diaper bag.

Dude times two.

(I should mention that my nephew is a total sweetheart. He’s also a toddler.)

Johnny was really impressed with my cooking, and luckily, Johnny and Ashley were understanding of us eating on the floor. Good Man and I have a tiny kitchen table that seats us and basically nobody else. We have two bar stools in the kitchen, two folding chairs in the office, a futon turned into a lounger in the living room, and a futon bed. Oh, and several bookshelves. A CD player, two nightstands. No TV. Entertaining involves the floor. Hey, at least we can always argue, “It’s the Korean way!”

(The futon in the living room is turned into a lounger because futons basically come in two styles: primarily beds and primarily couches. This one is primarily a bed, and when you set it up like a normal couch, it’s too low to the ground. If I’m going to be that low to the ground, I’m going to be lounging!)

Yes, we live like graduate students with hand-me-down lounger futons and microwaves and IKEA furniture.

In any case, while he was eating the salad (broccoli, carrots, cucumbers in a cream sauce) and vegetable lasagna, my brother couldn’t stop raving. “Wow, Sis, you can cook! Where’d you learn to cook?”

I’m not sure why he was so surprised.

That got us going on my new shopping plan/method/style. Good Man and I bought several 12-packs of soda shortly after we moved into this apartment, because they were on deep sale. We then went through them at a lightening pace. During the same week, coincidentally, I read that women with PCOS should not consume caffeine. Since then, we’ve gone cold turkey off of Diet Coke.

Now. Anyone who knows me in real life is probably picking their jaw up from the ground. I drink Diet Coke. I buy Diet Coke. It’s what I do.

On top of dropping buying soda (though we will drink it at restaurants or friends’ houses), I’ve started shopping mostly the perimeter of the grocery store. When I came back from Korea I realized how much of the stuff in the stores is junk. Even “healthy” foods like rice cakes (those fake, puffed kinds that taste like nothing) and granola are packed full of junk.

The perimeter of the store is dairy, fruits, veggies, meat, and the bakery (though I tend to avoid the bakery, too). We rarely dip down into the aisles, and if we do, it’s for flour, wheat germ, old-fashioned oatmeal, pasta sauce (something I haven’t started making myself yet) and canned vegetables when they’re on sale.

On top of that, I’m shopping the front and back of the sales circulars. The front and back (generally speaking) are fruits, veggies, dairy, meat. No snack foods, no fruit juices, chips, junky cereal, etc.

And when I buy fruit and veggies, I try my hardest to buy only when they’re less than $1/lb. I figure if they’re selling for less than $1/lb, they’re mostly in season. I do make exceptions for some things, but as a general rule, the $1/lb for produce thing is working pretty well. For meat it’s $3/lb. Johnny found my dollar limit pretty interesting. But why buy apples at $1.29/lb now when I know they’ll drop in a month? This manner of shopping is really new to me, and since I hate winter vegetables, it will be interesting to see how I fare in a few months.

It’s a good thing we live alone in our family of two, because when we’re done grocery shopping for the week, our fridge is crammed full of fruits and veggies. Last week we had to find space for 8 green bell peppers. And we used all but one by the end of the week (my menu didn’t work out exactly). Good Man eats carrots like I would like to eat chocolate, so we always have a 5 lb bag in there. The freezer…the freezer is basically empty. I buy chicken and pork on sale, freeze it, and use it until the next sale, but otherwise it’s empty.

Of course, we also shop at the Korean market at least twice a month, which I love. Their produce is often fantastic, and this weekend we watched ajummas fight over a giant box full of corn on the cob. It was like being in Korea again. Ahhh, Korea.

Next up—visiting the farmer’s market and checking out the prices there.

Anyhow, after dinner we went to the elementary school behind my house and played on the playground a bit.

It was Chuseok this weekend—Korea’s fall festival—and the only special thing we did for it was buy 송편, rice cakes filled with a savory paste, and talk to Mother on the phone. Though not directly related to Chuseok, inviting my brother’s family over was darn special, too.

My Little Brother

Wheeeee!

That Sneaky Smile Runs in the Family

Staff Meeting

Lead Teacher: Let’s look at Guernica.

Reading Lead: Um, but that’s a breast. With nipples. I wouldn’t feel comfortable showing that to the sixth graders.

Lead Teacher: It’s art.

Reading Lead: And…is she breast feeding?

ESL Teacher: No, um, no, that’s her dead baby.

Me: Boys and girls, today we’re going to learn about Picasso, the Spanish Civil War, Nazis, and dead babies.

“Where Is She From?”

Monday I went to taekwondo. Class itself was great, and I managed to do 100 sit-ups when I was supposed to. (I know, other martial artists can do this. I, however, hate sit-ups with a passion.)

However, for reasons I won’t go into—reasons that are not in any way my fault—I had to have words with “New” Master. He did some rather low-character things and I was displeased with him. At one point I flat out said to him, “I don’t believe you. You have lied to me twice.”

After giving me a rather shocked looked, he immediately apologized to me.

An older-than-me Korean man apologized to me.

And then he switched to Korean. I could understand everything he was saying, but I couldn’t tell if he’d switched to Korean to try and tug at my emotions or to try and confuse me.

I switched to Korean, too. “We don’t have jeong,” I said. I started to speak in the circular, Korean way. “Master in Korea…we had a lot of time. His family is my family. Lots of time… I always believed him. But you, right now? No.”

I may have been speaking Korean, but I was good old American me to the core.

He looked a bit shocked again, and I softened my approach. “If we drink together, we can become friends. But we have not had liquor together yet,” I said in Korean.

“New” Master smiled softly and said, still speaking Korean, “After the next test, Master, Amanda, [Special Forces Instructor], [Good Man], we will go drink.”

“OK, but… I still don’t know about [this matter]. Tomorrow. Tomorrow I will tell you.”

Last night I went to taekwondo and dragged Good Man with me. While I was training (another 100 sit-ups done!), Good Man talked to “New” Master in Korean. This way there could be no “misunderstanding.” No excuses. No hemming and hawing.

I was called from class. We settled the matter, shook hands. “New” Master said to me, “Amanda, where are you from? I ask [Good Man].”

“My ancestors are from Finland, Sweden, Norway, Ireland, and Ukraine,” I said. “Why?”

“Because I thought maybe Italy.”

I was surprised. I don’t think I look very Italian. “Italy? Why?”

“Your temperament. When you are angry, you are very angry. But when you are happy, you are very happy. And when a disagreement is over, you forget about it.”

I laughed and thought, Lucky for you but only said, “I don’t tend to hold grudges.”

As Good Man and I went out to the car I said, “What was that? Did he mean that as a compliment? That I let things go after I’m happy again?”

“Well….you are a paying customer, so yes… it must be a compliment.”

Good Man is a terrible liar.

“Hey,” I said, “I don’t think he’ll do that to me again. Now he knows that I’ll stand up for myself and use you as Korean back-up! We make a good team.”

Good Man just grinned and nodded.

Jeyookbokeum and Respecting the Carrot

I turned to Good Man and said, “We don’t have rice wine, so I’m leaving that out. Is that OK?”

“It’s OK. Even though I don’t know what you are talking about.”

I love my Korean cookbook.

제육볶음, Jeyookbokeum, Spicy Stir-Fried Pork

1 lb (500 g) pork fillet or pork belly, thinly sliced
1 T vegetable oil
8 fresh shiitake mushrooms or 5 dried black Chinese mushrooms, rinsed, soeaked in water for 30 mins to soften, stems discarded and caps sliced
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 leek, sliced
1/2 C (100 g) kimchi, lightly squeezed dry and thinly sliced (we just threw the kimchi in there, no squeezing, no slicing)
2 red chilies, sliced diagonally
1 small green bell pepper, sliced into thick strips

toasted sesame seed, to garnish (optional)
1 small carrot, or zucchini, or a handful of sugar snap peas (not traditionally Korean, but yummy)

Marinade
3-4 T chili bean paste (gochujang, 고추장)
1-2 t ground red pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t grated ginger (we don’t have a grater, so I just minced some ginger)
2 t sesame oil (I do think using sesame oil is important; when I used it in my parents’ house, my mother immediately recognized it, exclaiming, “That’s the smell I kept smelling in Korea!”)

1 T rice wine or sake
1 1/2 T soy sauce
1 T sugar
2 T water

Combine marinade in a medium bowl, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Add the pork and mix to coat well. Drain the pork and reserve the marinade. (We didn’t do this. The marinade was not going to “drain” and I wasn’t going to wait for it to try.)

Heat the vegetable oil in a wok (or giant pot) over high heat and stir-fry the pork for 1 min. Add the mushrooms, onion, leek and kimchi (and carrots/zucchini/sugar snaps if you’re using them) and stir-fry for 1 more min. Add the reserved marinade and continue to stir-fry until pork is cooked, about 4 mins.

Add the chilies and bell pepper and stir to mix well. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve hot. Have lots of steamed rice around! Serves 4.

퓨전 제육볶음

You’ll note there are carrots in there. Good Man loves carrots. “I like carrot. I want carrot.” He is always telling me to “respect the carrot.” That sounds so dirty, but it isn’t.

Realizations

I got to talk to Jennifer on the phone/Skype last night.

First off, how nice it was to get to talk to her.

Second, while we were chatting, I realized that I need to quit saying—and quit thinking—”if it weren’t for Good Man, I’d be in Korea for at least one more year.”

Fact is, when I’ve been pissed at something here in America, or when I’ve been homesick for Korea, I’ve said it. To him or to myself or to a third party.

And that’s patently unfair to both of us. I’m not some mindless Stepford Girlfriend. I made the decision to come here willfully. He didn’t strong arm or guilt me into coming here.

Good Man chose to stay in Korea for a year for me. I never wrote about this because, frankly, I thought he was out of his mind at the time. But he never, ever held it over my head, and he never made me feel like I owed him anything for it. And for me to say, or even think, that the responsibility of being here rests solely on him is pretty low. We made this decision. Together.

For all the times I miss Korea, I’d rather be here with him than in Korea without him.

100.2

My students don’t know how to close the doors to the book bag closet. It makes me crazy.

I caught one student cheating off of another before 9 am.

Two students came in whining about having already lost their social studies homework (given to them yesterday, due Friday).

Another student came in this morning in a foul mood for an unknown reason and pouted through every activity with his jacket pulled over his head (until I finally took it off of his head and stuck it in the closet).

I was not in a good mood. At 8:45 we had a Nearly Come to Jesus Meeting* because I was so Not In a Good Mood. Things mostly improved after that (save the jacket head child).

Then I came home—after 6 pm mind you, because I had an endless meeting after school—to find I had a temperature of 100.2.

No wonder the kids drove me crazy today.

* Meaning there were no ultimatums, but rather, “And let’s review…how are we to come in in the morning…and what are we to do…and then what? And if…” It went quite well. I have nice kids.

Lust, Caution

Last night Good Man and I decided to have an in-house date night.

We headed over to Borders to get Lust, Caution. I had a 30% of coupon, as well as a $15 gift card. I’d called ahead and put the movie on hold, but it took them a good ten minutes to find it, so the manager gave me an additional $10 in coupons to use on my next visit. So total cost of the $30 movie? $6.29.

We then headed off to the grocery store and grabbed a frozen pizza and some “movie candy.” Much cheaper than going out to a movie.

And the movie! Wow. The costumes, the scenery—lovely, lovely. And Tang Wei. I really hope to see her in some more movies. She nearly seduced me. I was completely drawn into the movie. The entire time, I was paying very close attention to the screen, afraid to miss the details (and delightfully recognizing some Chinese characters).

A wonderful in-house date movie.