Orange Riches

While packing lunch this morning, I handed Good Man a spoon and an orange. “Open this,” I said. He stabbed the orange with the spoon. “No! What are you doing? Your mother didn’t even teach you how to open up an orange?”

“We are Korean! We do not eat oranges!”

“Yes, you do.”

“No, normal Koreans eat gul [clementines], which are easy to peel. Only rich people eat oranges.” Good Man pumped his arm like a Korean protestor and put on a thick Korean accent. “Yankee, go home!”

Just Two Frames!

Good Manism: Squirrel! Time to get up. Time to eat chestnut.

Reality: We were going to our bowling league.

Figure that that connection, folks.


Good Man and I were first place in our league for several weeks (eight or even ten?), but finally we’ve fallen to third place.

There are only eleven teams in our league, so if you’re up against team eight, you actually draw a number and virtually bowl against that team for points. (The drawn team will not win or lose points in the game, only the team going against team eight.)

We’ve been doing really poorly lately, and started off with both of us getting sub-100 games. But we got better as the night went on.

On the third game, I started with a strike. Then a spare. Then a strike.

Good Man looked at me. “What are you doing?”

“I don’t know. But I don’t think we should talk about it.”

On the fourth frame I got a spare. On the fifth frame, I got a strike. The people playing next to us started paying attention.

On the sixth frame, I got an 8, and couldn’t pick up the spare.

I figured the game would finally turn normal, but on frame seven, I got another strike. And a spare. And a strike.

Finally, on the tenth frame, I got a split 8. Ugh. And…I failed to pick up any pins. The people next to us groaned and I did, too.

But! I ended up with a 172, which is my highest score ever.

Since my first two games were eh, I didn’t end up with a 400 series, but I’m really excited to have a new best score!

Discovery Flyover

A coworker walked into my room yesterday morning, while my class was watching the Discovery flyover on TV. She said, “Finally! Someone watching this! Why aren’t the other classes watching this? Other teachers are watching it, but not classes! Why?

I shrugged. Our admin had been sending emails about this event for a month. I figured that was tacit approval, and scrapped my language arts lesson plans. (And heck, even if we didn’t have tacit approval, I was going to have my kids watch it.)

“I really want to tell my intern she should be doing this, but it’s her job to teach without me this week.”

“I know,” I said, nodding. My intern was amazing, and I really miss having her in the room, but it was strange to give up complete control of my class for two weeks.

One of my students raised his hand. “Ms, can we go out and see it?”

“I think they’re too low, over in DC. There will be too many trees,” I said.

“Can we try?”

“Sure, let’s go.”

We headed up to the playground, but as expected, we couldn’t see anything. We headed back inside and finished watching the flyover. We discussed why the shuttle was being retired, what it had done, how it was being flown to us, how they got special permission to fly in restricted airspace, and why fighter jets were accompanying Discovery.

“Ms,” the same student said, “they’ve left DC, can we see if we can see it?”

The map of their route wasn’t released (as far as I could tell), but DC to Dulles is pretty much a straight shot down I-66, and we’re only a few miles from I-66. “Sure, let’s try. But I don’t know if we’ll be able to see it,” I said. “If we do, we are very lucky.”

My coworker had me call for one of her students, the one student she knew would appreciate this. I called him into my room, and grabbed the speech teacher across the hall. We went back up to the playground, and waited.

After just a few minutes, we heard a loud roar. “Is that it?” my coworker said.

“I think it—” I jumped up and pointed, “There it is!”

The Discovery was very low, and it flew so close to us. We had an amazing view of it. The teachers hung back, high-fiving each other, tears in our eyes. Our kids ran after the shuttle, watching it disappear through the trees.

“That was so cool!”

“We saw it! We saw it!”

“Ms, you are the best teacher ever!”

My coworker looked at me. “We didn’t bring a camera.”

I laughed, “So what? We saw it.” I saw some facility workers on the roof and waved to them. They shot us a thumbs up. I flashed a thumbs up back and shook my head sadly. “The only ones.”

We were the only classroom out there.


One of my coworkers said they didn’t watch any of it or go outside because they needed to prepare for the test.

The Test. The Test. The Test.

This morning a parent emailed me, thanking me for taking their son out to the field, thanking me for showing him a bit of “living history.”

When I was in seventh grade, my band teacher had us practice one song, then took us outside for the rest of the period to watch a total eclipse of the sun. We had a spring concert coming up, her version of The Test. She said, “You have band every other day. This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”

That was nearly twenty years ago.

I hope in twenty years, my kids don’t remember The Test. I hope they remember standing on the field, seeing Discovery on the back of a 747, flying low across the sky while their teacher wiped tears from her eyes.

String Trellis

This morning, this flower had petals. But when I came home, they had all fallen off.

Stamen and Pistil

These aphids don’t know it, but they’re about to die.


The peas I have are naughty. Most of them won’t climb up the bamboo trellis I made, so I ran some twine around the poles to give them more climbing space.

I put these in yesterday, and this morning a few plants had already wrapped themselves around the string.

Still, most of my peas are codependents, all wrapped up in each other.

String Trellis

Japanese Fabric

I haven’t written about Good Man recently because he’s been on a business trip in Japan. He finally came home (after a very…eventful trip) tonight and he brought this beautiful fabric with him.

The blue brocade is 23% rayon, but beyond that, I don’t know what it is. I suspect the purple one is rayon, too. The purple fabric is very light, filmy. I have three meters of each, but they’re narrower than I’m used to. I’m not sure what I’ll make with them yet!

Beautiful Fabric from Japan

Escape From Camp 14

Yesterday I took the day off of work and headed to Politics and Prose so I could see Shin Dong-hyuk and Blaine Harden speak. As I expected, I ended up in tears.

Shin is the author of 세상 밖으로 나오다, a book I wrote about reading last year. Shin is the only person known to have successfully escaped from Camp 14, a North Korean prison camp.

This month, his story was published in English as Escape From Camp 14, told by Blaine Harden. It is not a translation of Shin’s memoir. Instead it is an updated/corrected story that made me hold my breath in chapter four, and gasp at Shin’s admission in chapter five.

Escape From Camp 14
Image Courtesy of Viking

At first I was disappointed that this book wasn’t a translation of 세상 밖으로 나오다. I know from reading his Korean-language memoir that Shin’s words are extremely powerful on their own. However, crucial details in Shin’s story have changed since the publication of his memoir. Shin says:

It has been a burden to keep this inside. In the beginning, I didn’t think much of my lie. It was my intent to lie. Now the people around me make me want to be honest. They make me want to be more moral. In that sense, I felt like I need to tell the truth. (p. 47)

The truth comes in an easily readable book. Harden gives a detailed, matter-of-fact account of Shin’s life, both inside and outside of North Korea. This book is painful to read, but the details are used for education, not shock value.

Harden doesn’t limit himself to telling Shin’s story. He delivers a brief history of North Korea, and exposes how the Kim dynasty operates. He explains how a North Korean’s social/political class affects their living situation and opportunities.

Also, Harden seamlessly weaves in information gleaned from other defectors, including a former camp guard who was taught to think of prisoners as “dogs and pigs” (36).

Yet Escape From Camp 14 doesn’t come off as a dry textbook. Instead, Shin’s entire experience becomes richer and more believable because of the background Harden provides.


At Politics and Prose yesterday, Harden spoke for approximately 20 minutes, followed up by Shin (with an interpreter). Even though I knew what to expect, I had to force back tears.

When it came time for the books to be signed however, I lost all composure. I had brought 세상 with me, and I purchased a copy of Escape at the event. I pushed 세상 in front of Shin and Escape in front of Harden. I was upset, and the words tumbled out in simple Korean, through tears.

“I’m sorry, my Korean isn’t good. My sister-in-law read this, and sent it to me. I read it slowly and cried. It was hard. Now my friends can read your story in English. Thank you.”

And that, I think, is this book’s greatest accomplishment. Although Shin’s story is the central focus of Escape From Camp 14, Harden’s skilled journalism exposes the incredible broader truth about what North Korea is doing to its own people. Now that Shin’s experience is available to a larger audience, can we continue to ignore North Korea’s human rights violations?

Shin Dong-hyuk at Politics and Prose

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Viking in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. I was already familiar with Shin’s story, and immediately recognized him on the cover. I tore through the house. “Honey!” I yelled, bursting into the office, “Look what they finally published in English!”

I was not required to write a positive review and I have not been paid or otherwise compensated to promote this book. Although the links above go to Amazon, I don’t run affiliate links.

And yes, I did purchase another copy of this book at Politics and Prose! I want to support Shin’s bravery however I can, and a purchase is a small way to do that.


I found this today in Simplicity’s Summer 2012 Pattern Catalog.


You’d think a company that charges $15.95 for this pattern could afford a copy editor. Or heck, even just spell check since knightshirt isn’t a word!

Gardening and Broken Blades

I spent a lot of time in the garden today, mostly cleaning up, creating bamboo trellises, and rearranging things.

Worm composting doesn’t get hot, so seeds don’t die. When I opened up the bin that holds my “finished” vermicompost, I laughed.


I have two types of beans, two types of peas, strawberries, onions (a stretch), and various spring bulbs going right now. What you can’t see in these photos is the hummingbird feeder I put up.

After I took these photos, I moved the pea plants so that the onions are a buffer between the peas and the railing. If they grow against the railing, I won’t be able to pick them easily.

Left Side

Right Side

A few days ago, my dad called and told me he found a Nikon camera while cleaning and he wondered if it was mine. It wasn’t, and we don’t know where it came from, but he sent me the body and lenses.

Both lenses are metal (how I miss actual metal), and one of the lenses is essential the same as my prime lens. It works with my camera, except I need to manually focus and change the f/stop. No big deal, and it’s great to have a backup lens.

The second lens is a zoom with a macro setting. Unfortunately, the blades (to change the aperture) were stuck. And they were at a very high f/stop, although I’m not sure if it was f/16 or f/22. Shooting with the f/stop that high would be great if all I wanted to do was use the camera for landscapes on very bright days.

We don’t know how long this camera has been at my dad’s place, but he lives in the desert. It’s dry, dusty, gritty. Although the lens appeared to have been well-protected, I thought maybe dirt or sand had gotten into the lens.

I Googled a bit. One site said it could be a lever problem, another a moisture problem, another an internal something-or-other problem… I decided the lens was old enough to risk killing, and grabbed some pliers. I used the pliers to wiggle the lever on the back a bit and the blades popped about halfway open. Success! I wiggled it a bit more and they popped open all the way.

But the aperture still doesn’t change.

So now I have nearly wide open blades to deal with. I like a narrow depth-of-field, so that’s OK with me. Of course, now I need to change only the ISO or shutter speed to expose properly. That’s one advantage to shooting digitally, though. With film you couldn’t change the ISO shot by shot.

The photos below (and the wide shots above) were all taken with this broken lens. Considering how windy it was today, and that I wasn’t using a tripod, I’d say it worked out pretty well, but I need to try and reshoot II.

Macro I

Macro II

Macro III

Resolutions: March Update

Here’s how I’m doing on my resolutions.

1) To walk/hike 1,000 miles.
I’m tempted to change this goal to “exercise 75% of the year” because of my PF. Keeping up exercise, although I’m not walking/hiking as much as I’d like.

2) To sew up more fabric than I buy.
I bought one yard of fabric in March. I sewed up 5 1/3 yards, which means I’m in the red 18 1/3 yards (rounded, because it was really 7/24, and that seems ridiculous).

3) To menu plan every single week.
As I expected, this month was a bit odd. With Sister here, and our trip to Williamsburg, we ate out more than normal and didn’t really keep with a menu plan (while she was here). We tended to wing it based on what we were in the mood to eat.

Simplicity 1896/0347, Vintage Dinner Roll Holder


This is Simplicity 1896 (also known as 0347) done up in some polyester fabric with golden thread running through it that I picked up at Joann’s last year.

I decided which size to make based on the finished size, and am happy with how loose it is.

This came together fairly quickly, and as I expected, the V is very deep. I knew I’d need to wear something else under this since the V was so deep, so I didn’t bother to line the super sheer fabric.

The fabric was a bit of a pain to sew, because it didn’t hold a pressing and if I did crank up the iron hot enough to keep a fold, the Lurex thread got wonky.

I used French seams for all of the seams because the fabric was so ravelrific, and I used the French seam combining the bodice and the lower portion as the elastic/drawstring casing. I also didn’t use narrow hems to finish it off, because the idea of doing narrow hems when I couldn’t really press it gave me nightmares.

I think this pattern could be very easily lengthened to make a dress.

My students told me I look like “painted, crinkled tape,” which I took as a compliment.

Fabric Closeup


I also recently finished a Vintage Inspired Dinner Roll holder, which is available as a free pattern.

Dinner Roll Holder

I made it using some muslin and some ladybug quilting fabric I bought as a remnant at Joann’s.