May 29th Garden Update

It’s two weeks later and my garden is looking good. I had a small battle with aphids this past week and ended up burning my plants with a little too much oil and the help from the sun. But the plant will be fine, and I’ve since diluted my oil mixture. The pepper plants I used the mixture on (after dilution) are fine.



The peppers have been potted. At the ends of each planter are peppers. In the middle, Thai basil. The peppers are starting to get tiny little buds at the top. I expect flowers, soon.

I potted the peppers deeper than they were in the Jiffy pots to help stabilize the peppers. Still, we had a thunderstorm Thursday night and yesterday a few of the plants were really leaning over. I’ll stake them this weekend.


I don’t know if these poppies are doing well or not, but the seeds were a gift, and they don’t make fruit, so no big loss if they fail.


The basil is finally growing! Maybe I just plopped them out in the garden too soon temperature-wise.


You can tell sesame is a mint, because this stuff grows so quickly. I had some aphids and accidentally burned the leaves, but I strongly suspect this will pop back quickly. I’ll start harvesting the leaves soon.

The plant on the lower left is strange. Its leaves are all slightly off-kilter on one side, almost like a corkscrew.


The dill is kind of floppy, but I’ll also start harvesting it soon.


And the mint. Can you kill mint? I’m doubtful. Again, I’ve given the mint a haircut since the photos two weeks ago, but you can’t tell.

아줌마 비법

“Amanda!” Whenever Mother says my name, she yells it. A-man-daaaaah! “[Good Man] needs new pants.”

“I know, but he doesn’t like shopping.”

“Neither does his father. I buy him pants and say, ‘Wear these!'”

I started laughing. “Ajumma, ajumma… [Good Man] how do you say ‘trick?'”

“비법.” Bibeop. The dictionary says it’s “a secret process, a mystique, a mystery.”

Mother nodded, “Yes, ajumma trick. You go buy him pants, OK?”

“I promise,” I laughed.


At the outlet mall, Mother managed to find the sole Korean-speaking employee in the store. At Bath and Body Works, Mother managed to find the sole Korean customer in the store. She looked at the woman and just started speaking Korean.

“Mother,” I said, “you have an ajumma trick! You have Korean radar. Beep beep beep! Korean person!”

Mother laughed and the woman she was talking to gasped, “She knows Korean! She knows the word 비법!”


“엄마, 쇼핑 올림픽 운동하면, 김연아예요.”

Mother laughed and said other Korean women were much better than she was.

I made hash of the phrasing, but she understood what I meant.

Mother, if shopping were an Olympic Sport, you’d be Kim Yuna.

(Just for the record, Good Man says 쇼핑 올림픽에 참가했다면, 김연아였을 거예요 is a better way to phrase it.)

Pita Bread

Last night I made chicken salad. I decided I wanted to eat it in a different way today, so I decided to make pita bread with a recipe I found at The Fresh Loaf.

Pita Bread

They didn’t puff perfectly, but next time I’m going to try baking them at 500 F instead of 400 F.

They were amazing. I haven’t bought tortillas since finding my own recipe, and now I won’t be buying pitas, either.

Mother’s Hands, 손맛

Mother arrived last Wednesday. She left yesterday. During that time, I didn’t have to cook a single thing. Even when Mother and Good Man went to Philadelphia for three days, Mother left enough food in the fridge to cover me. “Amanda, you work so hard. I made you food.”

맛 means “flavor” or “taste.” 맛있다 means “to be delicious.” 단맛 and 쓴맛 mean “sweet” and “bitter” respectively. 밥맛 is “rice” and “flavor,” which becomes “appetite.”

손맛 is “hand” and “taste.” And as I’ve seen it used, I’ve always thought of it as meaning “home cooking.”

Watching Mother cook for more than a week made me realize that it really does mean “hand taste.”

When Mother cooks, she rarely uses mixing spoons or spatulas. She dons thin plastic gloves and uses her hands (or chopsticks in the case of hot foods) to cook.

She chops everything by hand.

She mixes food with her hands.

She serves with her hands.


Love, According to Mother

It Meant He Would Leave

Over lunch on our shopping day…

“Mother,” I said in Korean, “were you angry when [Good Man] said he had an American girlfriend?”

“Ahhhh, of course.”


“Because it meant he would leave.”

I nodded. How could I answer that? He left. He left for school, sure, but he stayed for me. For us.

Mother continued, “But it’s OK because I have two kids. If I only had one child, I wouldn’t let them marry a foreigner.”

“So [Sister] has to marry a Korean?”

“Yes.” She thought for a moment. “What would happen to Korea if everyone left?”

I had no answer for that.

Three Months vs Three Years

While on a walk without Good Man…

“Mother, how did you meet Father?”

“We were introduced to each other.”

“How long did you date before marrying?”

She held up three fingers. “Three years.”

“Oh, three years? A lot of Koreans marry after three months. Why?”

Mother scoffed. “I don’t know. But that is too soon.”

I laughed, “So if [Sister] met someone and said she wanted to marry him after three mon—”

“Nope. She can’t. That is too soon.”

“[Good Man] and I dated for two years. My mom always says you should know someone at least one year. Because you go through summer, win—”

“Fall,” Mother corrected me.

“Fall, winter…um…” Mother gave me the word, “spring.”

“And maybe a funeral or a new job or moving.”

Mother sounded confused. “Why?”

“Because a funeral, a new job, moving…those are all hard things. They make a lot of stress.”

“Ah, that makes sense.”

Grandmother and Grandfather

On the same walk…

“Mother, how did your parents meet?”

“My mother’s mother, my father’s mother, [some word].” Mother slowly explained it and I got it. They were an arranged marriage. Of course, that makes sense. They were married nearly 60 years ago. The fact that Mother and Father were a “love match” in ~1980 is rather unusual. “They met when they were 18 and got married very soon after that.”

“When you were growing up, did they like each other? Did they understand each other?”

“Hmm. They liked each other and then didn’t like each other and then liked each other and didn’t like each other…”

I laughed, “And now?”

“Now? Now I think they’re OK.”

Layout of my Porch Garden

Umma2kimchilovers asked me to post photos of my garden layout. Since I got the peppers (and Thai basil) into pots yesterday, I got to take photos today. We’ll see if this layout lasts.

Overall Layout

The porch is about 6 ft by 15 ft. I can’t fit the ugly yellow deck chairs in the basement storage unit. I can’t fit the two benches in the storage unit either. The benches won’t fit against the sliding glass door wall because you’ll bash your knees going out onto the porch. I need to be careful about which plants are on the far right side because the mailman throws things onto our porch (from ground level). He has pretty good aim, but I’m still concerned about him hitting things.


I’ve stacked most of the ugly yellow chairs together since we rarely use them. Behind the chairs I have some gardening supplies—soil, gloves, peat pots, etc.

The orange bucket is full of compost (processing). Then I have dill in the big orange pot, sweet basil in front of that. Two planters of sesame. The white bucket is poppy.


The planters at the top (near the railing) have one plant each of three varieties of Korean peppers in one pot (far left) and then three planters of more Korean peppers. In each planter there are two Korean peppers of the same variety with one chunk of Thai basil in the middle. (So all told I’ve got nine Korean peppers plants and three Thai basil plants going.)

The Thai basil and the sweet basil in the round recycled tub-turned-pot is the only stuff I bought from the nursery. Everything else is from seed. Unfortunately, the Thai basil was really root bound and I think there’s more than one plant growing there…not a good sign, but that’s how all the Thai basil was, so oh well. I’ll be sure to harvest it a lot.

On the bench in the lower part of the photo I have (from left to right) repeating pots of marigolds and sweet basil and then a pot of random wildflowers (from one of those “plant this!” business cards).


The Korean pepper pots finish up. Then we have mint in the back in the black pot and more sweet basil in the front.

Then there’s an angled bench with extra plants on it (planning on giving those plants to Mark’s Lover).

Last year I had a lot fewer plants, so I didn’t need two layers of plants. I decided that I will harvest the herbs more often than the peppers, and the peppers will grow larger, so the herbs seemed to fit better on the bench.

We’ll see how this layout works!

May 15th Garden Update

I feel like my plants grow so slowly, but here they are almost two weeks later.

Marigolds and…a Maple?

All three of my pots of marigolds have one seedling right now. And in this one, a maple tree came up! I accidentally killed it trying to move it. That was a not well thought out decision. I have more marigold seeds, but I don’t have more random maple seeds sprouting in pots. Oh well.

Korean Peppers

I lost two of my 18 Korean pepper plants. One fell over in the middle of the stem and another one just died. Several got sunburnt because I left them out in the sun for too long. (If you look carefully, you can see the white edge on some of the leaves.) I also think I was waterlogging them a bit, but I’ve since quit watering them so much. They look a lot better.

I’m waiting for the evenings to warm up just a little more before I can plunk them in the ground. I’m getting annoyed with the wait.


According to the directions I can find online, these poppies are too crowded. However, the seeds were a gift and I have none left, and poppies grow a taproot which makes moving them hard. So crowded they will remain!


I didn’t take a picture of the basil last time, but this plant really hasn’t grown much. I need at least three basil plants (but would prefer more) but they’re just not doing very well. I started everything (except for the mint) from seed this year, and I think I’m going to break down with the basil and buy some from the garden center. It’s just not looking very good.

Sesame Leaves

The sesame plants seem very hardy, and very easy to care for. I can’t wait until I can harvest some leaves to eat!


I didn’t listen. Everything I read said that dill is best direct sown or as a transplant from a nursery. I thought I’d start the dill indoors. Well, the stuff I transplanted outside failed miserably, so I yanked it out and direct sowed a bunch of dill. I’ve been thinning this plot a lot and still technically have too many plants in there. I’ll thin a little more, but probably not down to the recommendation.


Mint, the black thumb grower’s plant. I’ve actually harvested mint since the last photo, and yet it still looks like it’s grown!

“This Is Like Cow Eyeballs to Me.”

Round Two: Fight!

Round Two: Fight! parts one and two were with Mother over a lovely watch and a lovely handbag. I lost. I called Good Man during the watch debate and asked him to help me. He tried to help, but when I got the phone back, he said, “You have no choice. Just say ‘yes.'”

Mother and I went outlet shopping yesterday and it was actually a lot of fun. We were together for more than eight hours without Good Man and we only had to resort to my dictionary twice, for “coral” and “honey” (because I was pronouncing it like “mandarin orange”). I even managed to explain what vanity license plates are, which was not something I ever expected I’d have to explain in Korean.

I was a little worried about how the day would go, but for the most part it was like shopping with my mom or Fairy Godmother. We sat down to sort out all of our coupons and plotted out a plan of attack. We made faces at ugly things, looked for our sizes in cute things, and giggled a lot.

Mother wasn’t familiar with all of the American brands, so she’d poke her head in a store, cry out, “Grandmother clothing!” and bow out.

She poked around in every shoe store we passed. At Naturalizer Outlet she kept saying, “These are so comfortable! These are really comfortable!”

At the handbag store, Mother managed to find the sole Korean-speaking employee. She asked the employee where the brown version of a bag was. I answered before the employee could, “저기요.”

The employee nearly jumped out of her skin when she heard me speak. Mother smiled and nodded, “우리 며느리예요.” She’s my daughter-in-law.

The way people reacted to us while shopping was interesting. One person asked me if we were speaking French (what?) and when I said Korean she just couldn’t believe I could speak Korean and how did I learn Korean? (I’m tempted to say I woke up and could magically speak it.)

At the restaurant we had lunch at the hostess froze and said, “Are you speaking Korean?” Turns out she went to some private high school mostly made up of Korean students, so she knew a few phrases and how to write and read Hangul. Mother was impressed.

Other people were looking at us, and I suspect they were trying to figure out our relationship. I mean, a late-twenties white woman with a mid-fifties Korean woman and nobody else around? That’s a bit odd. If Good Man had been there, they would’ve been able to figure it out. At least he’s the right age and skin color to be Mother’s child or nephew or something.

Round Three: Fight!

When I modeled a lovely dress, Mother said, “다이어트해…” Go on a diet.

It was the second time Mother had said it, and while I know logically that Koreans show love by commenting about weight, I was tired of it. “어머니, 다시 말하시면, 저는 갈거예요.” Mother, if you say it again, I will go home.

I won, because she didn’t say it again.

Round Four: Fight!

Mother has been making breakfast, lunch, and dinner most meals. This morning breakfast included tomato juice, which Mother made this morning.

I have a weird relationship with tomatoes. I love tomato sauce, paste, and salsa, but I hate raw tomatoes. I pick them off of salads and sandwiches. I can stand one small can of V8 because it’s got some other ingredients in it.

Mother had made pure tomato juice—with a dollop of olive oil in it.

I said, “Mother…I really don’t like tomatoes.”

“Drink it.”

I drank two large gulps.

“Mother, I really don’t like tomatoes.”

“You eat pasta sauce and that has tomatoes—”

Good Man tried to help me out, “No, she really doesn’t like tomatoes…”

While he was explaining, I was muttering, “Where did these tomatoes come from? We didn’t have tomatoes in the house. I don’t usually buy tomatoes. Who bought these tomatoes? I hate tomatoes.”

Mother raised her voice to scold me, “Tomato juice is very healthy! So is extra-virgin olive oil!”

“Mother,” I said, “you like all foods?”


“All foods everywhere?”


I laughed, “So you would eat cow eyeballs?”

Mother started laughing, “No…”

“Well, this is like cow eyeballs to me.”

Mother picked up my glass and plunked it in front of Good Man. “You drink it.” She made me get some orange juice.

A few minutes later she told me to eat more fruit. I was feeling full. “[Good Man] hasn’t eaten any fruit,” I said.

“He’s drinking your tomato juice!”

Maybe that Fight! was a three-way draw.

Round One. Fight!

Mother and Good Man went off to DC today. When they came home, Mother carried in a bottle of Downy. I looked at Good Man, “Why did you let her buy this? We don’t use this.”

“아만다!” Mother cried out. “It will make your clothes soft, and they’ll smell good.”

I answered in Korean, “I don’t want my clothes to smell. We don’t use this.”

“Ah, Amanda, just use it,” she said.

Good Man looked at me, “Just say yes.”

“네.” Yes. Mother looked very happy. I continued, “하지만 거짓말해요.” But I am lying.

Good Man said, “네, 쓸 거야.” Yes, we’ll use it.

I nodded toward Good Man, “[굿맨]도 거짓말쟁이예요.” He’s a liar, too.

She laughed, “아이고! 세상에!” Oh my! Oh my goodness!


Later I whispered to Good Man, “You know that bottle is going to be here, mostly unused, the next time Mother comes, right?”

Before he could reply, Mother started talking from the next room. When she finished I said, “What’d she say?”

Good Man sighed, “I will not translate everything! But she said that even though you will resist, I need to use laundry softener.”


When we were hanging up the clothes, I grumbled to Good Man. “These smell funny and feel waxy.”

Good Man put his right pointer finger up in the air, “Korean Drill Instructor!” He put his left point finger up in the air. “American Drill Instructor!” He moved his fingers close together in front of his face. “Round one! Fight!”