Thursday, October 16, 2008

Good times ahead

Currently trying hard to procrastinate, so thought, 'why not post on the blog?'.

The first half of this month has gone by super fast. Feels like it was October 1st yesterday and I was thinking, I have lots of time to get done book one, fix up the place, and have time to spare until mom gets here. Well, she arrives tomorrow.

I'm not too worried about having to do too much work while she's here. I'll have to take a few hours here and there to do some work, perhaps when she's taking it easy, or if she's napping due to jet lag. Luckily, the new series for preschoolers I'm working on isn't too hard on the brain, and can even be enjoyable at times. I've also canceled most of my classes for the time that she's here.
I haven't planned too much for me and mom to do. I'd like it to be a laid back visit. If we feel like doing some shopping or seeing a movie, we can do that. Or, if we feel like staying in and knitting, we can do that too. It will be quite different from her 8-day whirlwind visit to Korea 3 1/2 years ago for the wedding!

At Gyeongbokgung, the day after our wedding:

At the Icheon ceramics festival:

So, before she gets here tomorrow, I have to finish writing book one (just the student book), clean up the place, and get a few groceries. Food is going to be interesting. I don't cook much and I don't think she likes Korean food. Also, most western food in Korea is expensive and unhealthy. I guess we're going to have to be creative.

During my July 2006 trip home. We visited the Canadian Rockies.

Near my parents' summer trailer on Lake Nippissing:

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Toto's Training

For over three years now, Toto has been our baby...She's slept with us every night, right in between us on our pillows. We're not sure whether she considers herself human, or she considers us cats. Whatever the case, she's pretty attached and feels she can do whatever she pleases.

Up until now this hasn't been a problem. She's a pretty laid back cat -- she doesn't jump or climb around like a lot of cats, thank goodness. We've never seen her on the kitchen counter or island, and she won't eat human food. She sleeps most of the time and always goes in her litter box. Pretty low maintenance. But emotionally, I'd say she's high maintenance. When I get home from an outing, she goes a little crazy, kind of like a dog, jumps on me and rubs her face against mine, purring. It's cute, but I won't be able to afford her this attention three months from now.
So, in order to make it easier on her in the long run, we've started a three-phase training program.

The first phase is trying to eliminate the risk of injury to the baby. This can never be fully eliminated with any animal, of course. But I think Soft Claws help a lot. We put these little plastic caps over her paws and she can't scratch anyone or anything. So far, so good. She's had them on for over a month with no complaints. When one falls off (when her nail sheds), we just replace it. Very easy and much kinder than declawing.

Toto Jo's grade for phase one: A+
The second phase is banning her from our bedroom. The baby will sleep with us for a while because it will be much easier this way, and we really don't have another room to properly fix up for him/her. So, that means Toto has been displaced. Of course we can't risk her cuddling up too close to the baby, even innocently, and also, we just don't want her hair shedding in that room anymore.

Last night, history was made when I closed Toto out of our room. It was really sad, but we have to start somewhere. She scratched and meowed at the door for about 5 minutes before giving up and going to sleep. I got up around 6am to use the facilities and get a snack. She didn't look very pleased with me, and tried her hardest to slink into the bedroom with me. She scratched and meowed for a little longer that time, but eventually gave up. So, she deserves credit for sleeping her first night without us. I was pretty happy with her performance because I thought she'd get upset and pee somewhere out of spite.

Toto Jo's grade for phase 2: B+
(She did well for the first night, and I think she will improve slowly over the coming weeks)

Phase three is simply her keeping on good behaviour around the baby. It's impossible to grade her on this phase right now obviously. We will be keeping a close eye on her when the time comes, and if there is any sign of aggression, we'll have to think about other options. I'm pretty positive, though, that she'll adjust well. She's proven to be a pretty adaptable and easy-going animal, so I hope she continues to impress us.

Toto Jo's grade for phase 3: To be determined

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Sax Solo

Thought I'd upload this video I took at the festival. This was Friday night at Jazz Island. Lots of people.

This band was led by Sadao Watanabe, jazz legend from Japan, who is still going strong at 75 years old!

The next day at the festival (but at a different location), we caught the Iiro Rantala New Trio, an experimental jazz band from Finland, and the Giovanni Amato Quartet, a very impressive combo from Italy. I think I enjoyed the quartet the most. They were truly masters of their instruments -- very impressive.

Here's a clip of the Iiro Rantala Trio. They were impressive as well. Notice there are no drums...One of the members does all percussion by beatboxing.


I've been meaning to post about our trip to Gapyeong last weekend, but the few times I've had some time to myself this week, I've not felt like sitting in front of the computer. But I did have a wonderful time last weekend and wanted to post some photos.

I brought up going to the Jarasum International Jazz Festival to Sejin about a month back and he did the smile and nod thing. Sejin isn't a jazz fan -- he was actually nodding off when we saw Branford Marsalis in concert a couple years back. But I've been really wanting to go to this festival, so he agreed, booked train tickets and festival tickets and I marked it on the calendar.

Then I remembered we had talked to Hayan and her boyfriend, Yungyu, about going away for a weekend. So, I thought, let's just all go to Gapyeong. And why stop there? We hadn't seen Christie and Wonsang for a while, so we invited them along.

Usually I'm not much a group travel person -- I find that traveling with a group usually slows you down, so I prefer to travel with only one or two people with a similar plan in mind, but this trip worked out well. Yungyu booked a nice pension (which we had neglected to do) and Hayan had the excellent idea of visiting Nami Island, which is quite close to Jara Island.

The train ride to Gapyeong was great. One thing to remember about traveling in Korea -- weekend traffic sucks. Last weekend was especially bad because it was a long weekend. The trains here (even the old ones) are awesome. They are quiet, comfortable, not very expensive, and best of all, as with all trains, you miss all the traffic. Hayan, Yungyu, Sejin, and I enjoyed a smooth 1 1/2 hour trip from Seoul to Gapyeong, having some good conversation along with some sandwiches and kimbap. Poor Christie and Wonsang. They decided to drive and we didn't see them in Gapyeong until dinner time -- their trip took them over 5 hours!
That evening we took a walk by the river, and had a barbecue outside our pension. It was nice to hear the peace and quiet, and fall weather was perfect. After dinner, we headed to the festival, which was very busy. We saw a couple of bands perform at Jazz Island. It was a bit chilly, but we had fun and headed back to the pension at around 11pm in high spirits where we celebrated Hayan's birthday.After cake we played cards. I found out Koreans seem to like seeing each other suffer, and so they took great care in thinking of a proper punishment for losing. The loser of each game had to eat a sizable chunk of raw onion. Luckily I didn't lose -- Christie said she could still taste onion the next morning. But to me, the entire table setting looked like punishment enough. As snacks, we had a strange assortment of strawberry birthday cake, tuna, dried persimmons, chocolate cookies, shrimp chips, and of course onions (see above photo collage). They were drinking soju mixed with plum juice.

The next morning we got up, had an equally strange breakfast (the assortment from the night before, plus ramen), and headed to Nami Island. Unfortunately, that Saturday was not a good day to go to Nami Island. I should have remembered, never visit any popular place in Korea on a long weekend! But it worked out well and Nami Island was quite beautiful. I think I'd like to go back on a less busy day to get some better pictures.

After returning from Nami and getting lunch (Chuncheon dalk galbi -- very good), Hayan and Yungyu headed back to Seoul, while the rest of us stayed to catch some more jazz.
Although we were only gone for two days and one night, it was a long weekend and we were pretty tired when we got in the door at 12am Saturday night. But it was a really fun trip and one I'll remember for a long time. It was so great to spend time with friends in the nice weather and scenery, since in another three months I'll be housebound with an infant! I'm hoping to fit in another trip or two before then.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Don't knit late at night

This is what happens when you knit when you're tired, late at night. This pattern is so cute, and well-written, but I screwed it up. Usually if you make little mistakes, like lose a stitch somewhere or forget to make a one-stitch increase, you're not going to notice it in the final product. But when you skip an instruction that says "knit another 16 rows," you're in trouble. I just couldn't figure out why the arms were so skinny. Then a few days later I read the pattern over again carefully and saw the huge chunk of knitting I had missed. Ouch.

So, instead of ripping it all out (which would have been hard because I had done cast offs and decreases, etc), I decided to practice that dreaded skill of picking up stitches. I picked up stitches all along under the arms, front and back. You can see where I did. It looks terrible. And talk about frustration. I just finished this because I wanted to use up old yarn and teach myself a lesson about following directions. I just may knit this pattern again, because it is really cute.
I think it looks good on my bear... maybe bear can keep it. She's been naked for 6 years, so I guess she deserves some clothing.
On Tuesday we saw Amira, Jin and Noah for the last time before they return to Australia. We had a nice lunch in Shinchon and then some treats and shopping afterwards. Too bad they live so far away. That's definitely one of the disadvantages to living in Korea. Friends are always coming and going.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Still don't know

First official appointment at Soonchunhyang University Hospital today. I was hoping to have an ultrasound to possibly find out the sex of the baby, but I didn't get one. On one hand I was kind of impressed that Dr. Choi doesn't demand one at every appointment like they do at Cheil Hospital (I think that was a money grab), but I was really hoping to find out today. I will get one at my next appointment on October 29, so now I'm at conflict with myself about whether I should go to a small private clinic and pay for an ultrasound just to find out. Can I wait another four weeks? I don't know...

So today I had the gestational diabetes test, which was not a big deal, and also my Rhogam shot since I have RH negative blood type. It's hard to believe that at my next appointment I will be nearly 31 weeks. Time certainly has slipped by quickly, and October will go by even quicker since I have lots of work and my mom is coming to visit.

After the appointment, Sejin and I went to Itaewon for pie. There's a great place run by an American man called "Tartine." He makes different types of pies, like pecan, cherry rhubarb, blueberry, etc. Actually, they're more like tarts, but they're done proper. It's also pricey at 6,000 won per pie, but it's a great treat since it's nearly impossible to find pastries like that in Korea. To find Tartine, start at the Hamilton Hotel, pass KFC and take your second right. It's tucked away in that little alley behind the Korean souvenir shop. Or, just remember it's in the little alley right across the street from Outback restaurant.

Picked up some bread, bagels, and deli meat before heading home. Itaewon is definitely not my favourite place in Seoul, but it does have some stuff you can't get anywhere else.

North Face Rip-off

This brand name rip-off stuff doesn't really surprised me anymore, but this one just really made me laugh:

Personally, I'd go for the really good rip-offs available at the Dongdaemun night market that actually say "The North Face."