Friday, December 31, 2010

Thoughts on 2011

The new year is less than 1.5 hours away, so why not write a post about what I hope to get done in 2011?

2011 is going to be HUGE for my family. I'm leaving Korea after being here about 9 years. I don't know what I'm going back to. I haven't driven a car in years, I haven't done banking there in years, I've never owned a car or a home...It's going to be a big change, but a change I'm looking forward to.

Since I'll be going through this big move, I'm not going to make a lot of hard-to-achieve resolutions. I am simply resolved to get through the move with grace (ha!) and begin the process of settling in Canada. But of course, there are a few things I would like to do.

- finish my current writing contract by deadline. I really must do this. I'm way behind, but I want to complete this project well and leave Korea feeling proud of this achievement.

- treat myself better. Over the last two years, I have let myself go a bit. Simply getting a haircut regularly and going to sleep an hour earlier would help a lot.

- improve my knitting and photography. Yesterday I crocheted a hat using no pattern. I'd like to do more of this, and if possible, write at least one pattern for publication (even if only on this blog). As for photography, I'd like to continue to see myself improve. I'm really enjoying this new hobby.

- get photos printed regularly. This is really embarrassing to admit, but I haven't had photos printed in about two years. It's so easy to get them printed, so I really have no excuse. I need to make a book of Grace's baby photos.

- spend less time on the computer. This is the hardest one. I do enjoy my Internet time after Grace goes to sleep. I love editing photos while checking facebook, flickr, and ravelry occassionally. But I really spend too much time online.

That's it! Happy New Year!

New projects

I have been in with Grace for the past four days. As I wrote about previously, she's been sick. I love spending time with her, but after the third day in sitting around, fetching her milk and warming up her miyokguk, I start to get bored (and stressed -- my work isn't doing itself). So yesterday I decided she needed a new hat. The one she's been wearing has been giving her a rash on her forehead. It's a tad too tight, and a really cheap acrylic yarn, so I think it's got to go... into a box, I mean. I keep all the stuff I make for her. It was good for a few photos, anyway. This is the one. I don't think I did a post on it.
Grace doesn't allow me to use the computer, so I couldn't look up a pattern. So I got out some old yarn and started crocheting, trying the hat on her as I went. It's definitely not perfect, but I think it's cute, and it's very soft, so I'm sure it won't irritate her skin.
I'm now working on a knitted stuffed elephant. My mom brought me a Knit Simple magazine when she visited me over two years ago. I was expecting Grace at the time and we both agreed the elephant was the cutest pattern in the magazine. I'm sure she'll be happy to hear I'm finally getting around to knitting it. It will be really cool if I can still read the pattern by the end of it, because Grace likes scribbling in it as I knit.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Sick of sickness

Grace is sick again. Ear infection and mild tonsilitis. I'm starting to get really tired of this. Last winter I endured with the thought that she is building up a strong immune system. However, I thought the illnesses would have tapered off by now. It seems she is rarely well for more than a week at a time and then she's coming down with something else. Not only do I hate seeing her sick, but it really messes with my work schedule. I am so far behind, I'm not sure what to do. Let's just say January is going to be a pretty messy month. And then there will be February. And I will buy myself a nice gift. I'm thinking a new lens. But really, why is she sick so much? She does not seem to be unhealthy. She eats and sleeps well. I posted about my frustration in my Facebook status update and a friend had an interesting story to tell. She said that her son was also constantly sick from being at daycare. Then she switched daycares and her son was well for four months straight. So that got me thinking. Anyway, I think I might take her out of daycare in February, a little earlier than planned.Speaking of lenses, I've fallen back in love with my 35mm prime lens. After shooting with my Tamron 17-50 for a few weeks straight and then switching back, the quality is very much noticeable. So much so, that I'm considering selling the Tamron to add another prime to my collection. I'm thinking a 50 1.4 or 85 1.8... or who knows? I think I'm a prime person, that's all I know.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Thoughtful Christmas

We had a really nice Christmas out in Uijeongbu. It was Grace's second Christmas, but the first she could appreciate a little. I suppose next year will be the first Christmas when she can understand more of what it's about (what's it about again?).

We got up, opened gifts and sat around a long time. I talked to my parents, my brother, my grandmother (who is a whopping 93 years old!), and my sister. Grace refused a nap due to the excitement, so we got cleaned up and went to a nearby meat restaurant. We followed that up with a snowman cake and "Follow that Bird" (maybe the tenth viewing this week). I was exhausted and went to bed at 9:00. I'll probably post some pictures later.

But for the last few days, I have been deep in thought about everything: the meaning of Christmas, my life thus far, the changes to come in the new year, what and who is important to me and why, and what I'm all about. I've been thinking way too much maybe, but I am looking forward to making some changes in my life in 2011. It think it's going to be a very important year for me and my family.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve

I had a reasonably productive day today. I finished a book last night (had to stay up very late to do so), and decided to take today to get the place cleaned up for Christmas. Sejin and I went to Costco this morning. It was a zoo, but we got what we needed (mostly cheese and deli meats) and got out. It was ridiculously cold! But at least we have good stuff to eat this weekend.

After Sejin went to work I cleaned the place up, so I am free to kick back and relax now. I think I might work on the stuffed elephant I am making for Grace. It doesn't feel like Christmas Eve at all.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

No words

It's been another weird holiday season for me. Christmas in Korea is always a bit strange. I try not to get too excited about Christmas here because then I'm let down.

The winter has been hectic so far with lots of book writing and Grace has been sick a few times. I'm just barely staying on top of things. Well, to be honest, I'm pretty stressed out. And when I get stressed out, I don't sleep well, and I tend to put off doing the important things and waste my time doing stupid things. So I've been in a kind of "poor me" slump for a few weeks. I'm tired.

I found out yesterday that a friend of mine's fiance passed away. I don't know her well anymore. She lives down in Suwon. We didn't keep in touch, but remained facebook friends. The last time I saw her was at a bbq when I was expecting Grace. Apparently, her fiance died suddenly, and I'm not sure of the circumstances yet. One of the last posts on her facebook wall before J's death was about being so excited for their wedding in the Dominican Republic in January. They'd been together years and had traveled the world together. They were inseparable, really, and very nice people. Anyway, I just can't stop thinking about how she must be feeling right now, with J passing away so suddenly a week before Christmas and a month before their wedding. It makes all my stress and problems seem so silly. I really feel terrible for her. Her mom is on her way to Korea. I just can't get this out of my head.

Sejin's grandfather is also in the hospital. I'm not sure what happened, but he injured himself somehow. Sejin might have to go to the countryside to see him this weekend.

My uncle is also spending Christmas in the hospital fighting cancer, after having had many exhausting treatments, including stem cell transplant.

I've been thinking of these people lately and try to remember to tell myself to shut up whenever I think I have it so bad.

Please pray for them.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

That hurt

It really hurt having to cancel my Christmas party we had planned for today. Grace came down with the flu Thursday night and I thought it might be through by today, but it dragged on a bit longer than usual. I ended up canceling the party yesterday and luckily I was able to cancel the big roast beef dinner I had ordered for the event. It was really sad. I have no other Christmas fun planned. Grace and I had matching snowman shirts for the party (really cute) and I was looking forward to seeing my friends and their little ones. *sigh* These things happen, I suppose.

So we spent today lolling around the apartment. Grace watched Christmas Eve on Sesame Street for the 18th time and I started knitting her a stuffed elephant. I'm glad she's getting better. Back to the grind tomorrow. I'm behind on my book writing and really need to catch up.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


I just looked into our little spare bathroom (which we don't use) at a small pile of Christmas presents in there for Grace. I'm so excited for Christmas morning when she can open them up. Really looking forward to that. I have no idea what else we're doing on Christmas Day. It's not a big holiday in Korea. It's more like Valentine's Day -- a day for couples to go out for dinner and a movie and exchange a gift. The popular restaurants and shopping areas are usually jam packed. Two years ago, SJ and I and another couple went to VIPs steakhouse on Christmas Day. Myself and Seyoung were nearly 40 weeks pregnant and we had to wait a while for a table. I'm not sure if we'll venture out this Christmas Day, but it would be nice to get outdoors to do something.

Must wrap those gifts before she finds them.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ah, one of those days

Nothing really bad happened, but you know those days when little things happen and add up to make you really ticked off? I must have been giving off a "look at me" vibe today because every group of middle school students that passed me felt a need to say "hello" and giggle to their friends. Seriously, what is the big deal? Finally, as I was on my way home from working at the cafe tonight, a high school boy said hello and laughed quietly as I walked by and I stopped, turned to him, and said in Korean, "Do you know me?" He replied, "No." Me: "Shut up." It's not like me to do that. I'm a very mild person, but sometimes you've just had enough. Just to be clear, I'm happy to chat with Koreans who approach me respectfully to have a conversation, which happens often. But the mocking I don't like.

Speaking of cafes...I felt a really strong need for a scone today, but Starbucks was packed -- no empty seats at all. There's not too many options around here. No Coffee Bean. I've been served many terrible coffees at Dunkin Donuts. Mister Donut, not comfy enough. So I decided to go to Kyamos, a nice little roastery in a back street in downtown Uijeongbu. They had no food available on their menu. Everything sold out. I was disappointed. So I ordered a cup of today's brew (smaller than average cup of coffee for 4500 won) with milk, to look at the receipt and see they were charging me 5000 won -- an extra 500 won for the milk! So disappointing.

Of course, I had to wait 10 minutes outdoors freezing for my train home. Picked up Grace at daycare and was told she bit one of the babies. Nice.

Not a terrible day, but not a good one. I did order the food for the get-together I'm having this weekend, and I mailed my Christmas cards. I wrote a unit for the book I'm working on.

Scary Santa

We took Grace to a Christmas event put on by the German Embassy in Seoul on Sunday. I knew it wasn't going to be that great, but seriously, we had nothing to do. Grace had been indoors the entire day on Saturday and wanted to get out. Costco and Homeplus are zoos on Sundays, and I've become disappointed in my local kids cafe, so what else is there? So I bundled up little Grace (it was really really cold) and we headed for Seoul on subway.When we arrived, we took a quick tour of the entire set up, which stretched an amazing 20 meters. There was German food, beer, and wine, and some Christmas crafts. I would have taken more pictures, but Grace had a meltdown after meeting Santa. She clung to me like a cat and actually did not respond to us for a little while after. She was very deep in thought. Since Sunday she has repeatedly told us (in Korean), "I don't like Ho-ho." We ended up leaving the event after about 15 minutes and had lunch at a Japanese restaurant. Since Grace enjoys eating above all else, this was the perfect way to put the encounter behind us.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Afternoon in Seoul

We went out today to meet friends for lunch in Seoul today. Actually, I had not met Violaine in person before. She was introduced to me on Facebook by another friend. She, her Korean husband, and two children (3 and 7 months) had been living in China for several years. They are stopping briefly in Korea to visit with her husband's family before moving to France, where she's from. She seemed very excited to be moving home, and it was nice to see our current situation reflected in theirs. Violaine did not like living in small town China. She said it was very difficult starting a family there. According to her, the birth options are even more bleak than in Korea, and she ended up having her second son at home, unassisted. She said the hospitals were that bad. And she's one to do her research. She visited Korea and met with Dr. Chung and liked the idea, but decided against it due to overbearing in-laws. I think she's pretty brave for staying in China to have her baby... I think I would have gone back to my home country had I been in her situation. Luckily, everything turned out for the best. Then, she had a lot of trouble with finding reliable childcare. Apparently in small towns there, authorities turn a blind eye to many things, including sexual abuse, which actually happened in her town, and at her son's school. When her husband's employer cut their family's health insurance off, they decided it was time to leave. I'm glad I have no terrible stories like that to take with me as I leave Korea. In general, I have been treated very well here and while starting a family here has been challenging, it hasn't been all that bad. There are certainly many things I will miss about living in Korea. I will share them in another post.

It will be interesting to see how Vio does as she adjusts to life in France after so long away from home. She and her husband have been submitting resumes online for some time, but zero responses. I asked her if she had considered living in Korea, but no...the over-bearing in-laws.

As for our move to Canada, it's still in the works, but I am not focusing on it at the moment. I want to complete my writing contract to the best of my ability. Applications are easy in comparison.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Christmas Decs

These are so easy they don't really even deserve a post, but here they are anyway.

Friday, December 3, 2010

What I've learned from Flickr

Flickr is a site for photographers to upload and share their photos. It's been invaluable to me in learning about cameras, lenses, and photography in general. Every camera, lens, and photographic style out there has its own group where members discuss related issues and post photos to the pool. There are some really good photographers hanging out over there willing to give sound advice.

But you can also see some funny stuff. People (especially guys) love talking about gear. They love discussing what they have, why it's better than what other people have, and what they want to have. They also love talking about complex lighting setups. It seems the more lights you can put on sticks, the more you can impress people. And the more numbers you can throw in your description, the better. I love it when I see a plain bad photo, and the photographer has gone through the trouble of detailing his lighting set up below the picture (50mm f2, one YN-460II 1/2 power shoot-through umbrella camera left, one SB600 3/4 power .... bla bla bla....).

What I love most is when someone posts to a group and says something like this (and this happens just about every day): I'm thinking of starting a portrait photography business out of my home. Can someone tell me what kind of lighting setup I need? This is my budget: $XXXX. Hmmm. Don't you think it would be a good idea to learn about studio photography and lighting on your own or through a class before you start up that business? I find it hilarious.

What I've found since I started reading flickr a few months ago is that a lot of people out there consider themselves good enough to be professional photographers right about after they take their camera out of the box -- and they're not. Just 'cause you have a fancy new camera doesn't mean you know enough or are good enough to start a photography business. I read the most hilarious post yesterday. A woman made a "HELP!" post to a child photography group explaining this nutty situation. She's trying to fill a client's order of a 11X16 of her favourite shot -- only thing is, it's printing blurry all the time. Her file is only 72dpi and she's wondering why it's blurry! She's shooting JPEG, obviously not even on the highest quality settings (chances are she doesn't even know her camera's menus) and she's charging people. Naturally, there are no photos available to be seen in her photostream.

I don't know why I'm posting about this. I guess because I was just browsing flickr for a while as Grace was falling asleep and saw some funny stuff. The Seoul Photo Club group is great because it has a "post one pic, critique two pics" policy. I often get sound critiques which is what I'm looking for.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Fingerless Mitts

Finished these up a couple of weeks ago. They are so simple, fast, and functional. I wore them out to the cosplay event and found them handy for keeping my hands warm while still allowing me to take photos. This would be a good pattern for a beginner because they are knit flat and then sewn up the side. If I made them again, I would knit them in the round to avoid seaming. Here is the pattern.
By the way, that's a Starbucks toffee nut latte in the cup on the table -- don't get it. I like sweet things and this was even too sweet for me. And it cost more than my bowl of dolsot bibimbap I'd had ten minutes earlier.

I started a Christmas hat for Grace last night, but am still unsure how it will turn out. I have issues with sizing hats. I'd like to get this done in time for a Christmas event we're going to on the 10th which involves German sausages, waffles, and pictures with Santa.

Monday, November 29, 2010

What I learned about photography II

My friend Angela was kind enough to invite me along to a cosplay event in southern Seoul on Sunday. I'm not into Japanese animation at all, but the lure of taking interesting photos and getting out on my own for a day won me over. We had a wonderful chat all the way from Chang-dong to Yangjae about everthing from photography (we are both new but eager DSLRers) to the North Korea situation. It's so great to get out once a week on my own and do something fun.

Anyway, we finally made it to the event, ate some street food, and started shooting. I had no idea how many people are so into this the point that they dress up like this once a month for these events. Some of the costumes and makeup were very elaborate. We eventually tracked down the members of the Seoul Photo Club. For me, this was good and bad. Good because they're nice guys, some with a lot of experience in photography. Also, due to their experience they are a little more bold when it comes to asking people permission to photograph them. We followed them around a bit and jumped in on their shoots.That's why it was bad, too. With so many people swarming around the subject, it's hard to get in there to get a good, clear shot. You're shooting in a hurry, sometimes with people walking in front of you. But it was great to watch them as well. They were not afraid to direct the cosplayers in how to pose or where to stand. So I picked up a few things from them.

Here's what I learned on Sunday:

1. I shouldn't shoot wide open all the time. For some reason I'm always shooting at the largest available aperature. I guess sometimes this is good, but you don't have to all the time. I think I would have had some sharper photos had I stopped down a bit more.

2. Don't be afraid to ask people to take their photos if you want to. The worst they can say is 'no.' Sunday was a good exercise for me, being a shy person. By the end of the afternoon, I was walking up to people and asking them to pose for me. Don't be afraid to tell people, especially at such an event, how to pose.

3. Look for more interesting angles. Angela is pretty good and seeing different, more interesting angles. I need to work on this.

4. Look for good light. The light was hard to work with on Sunday. It was so bright and there were harsh shadows everwhere. In some of my photos you can see the shadows of other photographers and other things. Not pretty. When trying to find a good angle, you have to look at how the shadows are falling.

5. Use flash. I brought my external flash on Sunday, yet I did not take it out until the last 1/2 hour or so. I don't know why. It was stupid. I should be experimenting and testing it out. When I finally took it out and used it, I was so pleasantly surprised by the results, I was kicking myself all the way home for not using it more. One of the last photos I took and I used the flash to even out the light, and I I think the results were good:6. Don't be so hard on yourself. Often I go out expecting to bring home jaw-dropping photos, and it just doesn't happen. But so what? As long as I learn something, it doesn't matter. I'm always so hard on myself, in all areas.

7. I need to start shooting in RAW. Angela took the plunge on Sunday and switched over from JPEG to RAW. I need to start doing this so that I can work more with my photos in the editing phase.

8. I'd like to get a good portrait lens next year. Both my lenses are great, but I want something a little longer and portrait-specific. I'm borrowing someone's 85mm 1.8 lens right now, which is supposed to be a good portrait lens, but I haven't had a chance to get out and use it yet. It's too long to use indoors and I didn't want to bring it on Sunday because the owner doesn't have a filter on it, so I didn't want to risk it.

That's all that I can think of right now. I really enjoy photography as a hobby. Whenever I take a bunch of photos, I can't wait to get home and upload them and see if I got any keepers. Since I started uploading photos with my new camera to facebook, people have been asking me what kind of camera I have and what to do... Just get one! Best decision I ever made.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Weekend plans

I have none. I rarely do. Whenever the weekend rolls around, I think to myself, "I should have made plans to do something fun earlier." I'll often call a friend to see what's up, but usually it's too short notice, understandably. Grace has been coughing today, so I think we're in for a quiet weekend. I might try to do some Christmas decorating. Should be interesting.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The glass is 1/8 full

...instead of 7/8 empty. I finished book 1 of 8 today, although I still have to type it out. That will be an all-afternoon job for tomorrow.

I'm really glad I made the decision NOT to buy a laptop to do this project. I go to the cafe with only my paper, pens, and reference materials and I have nothing to distract me at all. I don't bring my knitting or mp3 player. I sometimes bring my camera, but only take the odd shot on my way to and from the cafe. I'm kind of proud of myself for being so hard on myself. I am getting to know my strengths and weaknesses and how to deal with them. I'm far too distracted by the internet these days, so it's best not to have that available to me at all when it's time to work.

Why is it so hard for me to focus on this work? My theory is that I'm thoroughly sick of anything ESL related. A career in ESL is definitely not in my future.

Project P&S Photo Rescue

I've been learning a lot about photo editing, mostly by reading online and good old trial and error. I'm starting to know what I like, and what I don't like. Before, like many people, I'd look at overdone photos and say, "Oh, that's cool" ... "How neat" ... "I love that." But these days I'm looking at photos with a more critical eye....and I'm comfortable with saying, "I don't like that" ... "This photo is way overdone"... or... "This is a bad photo." Of course, a lot is just a matter of taste, but I'm happy to at least to be developing my taste, and hopefully one day, my own style of photography.

I've been thinking about finally getting a baby book for Grace done. At least her first year. I bought a baby book when I was expecting and of course, it's still sitting on the shelf, empty. Well, I think I added some ultrasound photos. Anyway, it's looking less and less likely that I'll ever complete that book. I heard that a lot of people these days do their baby books online and have them printed by companies like shutterfly. I recently got a coupon from a Korean company I think this is the route I'm going to go.

In preparation, I have to sort through her first year photos and pick my favourites. I got some decent shots considering the limited abilities of my point and shoot camera. But the quality is low in a lot of the indoors photos. They are really dark and full of noise. Since I've been practicing my photo editing, I thought I would try to fix some up. This little project will take quite a while since I have a lot of photos to go through and rescue, but it will be fun. I'm going to make a photo book for us, my parents, and Sejin's parents.

Here are a couple of samples of what I've done so far. It's hard to see the difference in these small size photos, but in the larger files, you can see that a lot of the noise has been removed from the skin at least, which I think will make a difference when printed.
Actually, these two might be different photos...I guess I decided to go with another one.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

What I learned about photography

So, a friend asked me to take some pictures of her family. I was flattered, because really, I am a far cry from a photographer. It's a growing hobby of mine, but that's about it. I got my DSLR camera to capture great memories of my family and maybe a few neat shots in between. Anyway, I agreed because she's my friend, and because I thought it would be a good experience for me and teach me a few things. I was right. I learned quite a lot.

1. Backgrounds are KEY. The background in a portrait or family shot can really make or break the photo. We went to a place called Herb Island, which is actually quite nice, but it was not an appropriate setting for the pictures. There were too many people around to take wide open shots, and the backgrounds were sometimes tacky and WAY too busy. The lighting in the green houses was difficult for me, an inexperienced photographer, to work with. It was a little chilly outside for little Logan who is only three months old. I should have went to their house and took photos near a window with his blankies and toys...something more traditional. Outdoors would have been nice in the warmer weather in a quieter location.

2. I need to learn about the autofocus settings on my camera. For some stupid reason, I left my focus settings on 3D tracking, which is actually for moving subjects, but my subjects weren't moving. Should have gone with plain old single point. I switched over since then and I have more keepers now.
3. I need to learn how to use my flash and reflector. I love my external flash. I use a mini softbox and bounce it off the ceilings at home. This makes amazing light with no shadows. But I am still unsure about how to use the flash as fill light. I tried a few times, and the photos came out with an orangey cast. As for my reflector, I tried using it to reflect light, but it created even hotter light on their faces. I think I was using it incorrectly, or just in an inappropriate situation. However, it did work quite well for blocking out some harsh light. Must practice some more with it.

4. If I were to do such a thing again, I would have to do some research and compile a list of possible poses. Nearly all of my pictures are of the family sitting on various photo-op benches, chest-up pictures, looking at the camera. I was not nearly daring or creative enough. Some candid photos would have been great. I think this would have turned out a bit differently had we been in a secluded area outdoors, but still, a variety of poses to draw from is always good.

5. I understand why professional photographers charge so much. You really spend most of a day doing something like this, and then you've got hundreds of pictures to go through, choose the best from, and then edit. Editing takes time...many hours...days.

6. My 35mm 1.8 lens is great. More keepers from that lens than the Tamron 17-50. The Tamron is give me more flexibility and I love the wide angle at 17mm, but for quality, the 35mm wins.

This all being said, we got a few good pictures out of it. I'm happy that she has a family picture she likes enough to put on a Christmas card. I just wish there were more shots of baby Logan alone basking in his own cuteness. This would have been possible if we were in his home. Some diaper shots would have been awesome. I'm not really happy with the photos, mostly because of the venue, but I am inexperienced and didn't know any better. At least I learned a lot from the experience.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Christmas with Gmarket

I recently ordered a few things from gmarket for Christmas. Nothing major, as I'm moving home early next year. Just some cheap, fun stuff I can decorate with and give away or throw out later.

This vendor has cute Christmas card mobiles and some cheesy headbands and earmuffs. I will be taking cute pictures of Grace in snowman earmuffs at some point over the holidays.

This vendor had some of the only good garland I could find. I ordered the green stuff with the white ends, as well as some silver and gold starry stuff.

I'm a fan of gold ribbon at Christmas time. This vendor has some nice sparkly gold ribbon, not to mention lots of other nice embellishments.

Get your cheesy Christmas headbands here. Actually, he's sold out of a lot of things.

That's all I got. Of course I have stuff from previous years to put up, like my sad little tree. Here is my loot:Not really Christmas related, but today I am ordering Grace a winter coat. She's still wearing hers from last year. It's a bit tight and the buttons keep popping open. I had a heck of a time finding a winter coat that looks warm. Most of the coats for little girls that I saw were ultra cute, but didn't look very thick. Anyway, this vendor has some nice stuff that actually looks warm.

I may or may not order a Christmas dress for Grace. I have a hand-me-down dress for her that is cute enough, so I should just stick with that. Perhaps a cute little vest and some leggings to go with it. I most definitely will be ordering her a birthday dress.

Anwyay, thought I would provide some links to some fun Christmas stuff that can be found on gmarket. These days I don't have time to scour Seoul for little things like this, so gmarket does the trick.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Back online

And that's not necessarily a good thing.

In a previous post I talked about possibly buying a laptop to help me work on my current ESL writing project. While my computer was in the shop, I reflected on my own habits, and decided that buying one would not help me at all. In fact, it would be counterproductive. When I'm in front of a computer, I can't seem to resist checking my email, Facebook, Ravelry, etc. It eats up time, and I don't have much time to spare.

It was amazing, not having a computer around to lure me in. I knitted a pair of mitts and worked at sewing up my cardigan. I did my work on paper at the cafe. I did more laundry than usual.Yesterday, the comptuer came back, and I literally spent an entire day reorganizing (repairman installed Windows 7), reinstalling programs, uploading photos, and wasting time online. If I were to take a laptop out to do work, there's no doubt in my mind I would waste time there, too -- not to mention waste money on a 5000 won coffee.

Geez, I feel so weak just reading this. I wonder if other people are a slave to the internet, like I am.

Well, I'm going to grab my notebook and pencil case and leave the house while I still have a few hours to work until I pick up little Grace.

Monday, November 15, 2010


My computer totally broke down on Thursday morning. The guy said it was in bad shape, but the information was not lost. It's in the shop.

So I've been without a computer for almost five days now. It's been strange. I used to spend so much time online...too much. I will admit, there have been times in the last few days I have felt lost, but in general, it's nice not to have the internet sucking away my time. For the last two nights, I've been sewing up my cardigan, which should have been done a long time ago. If I didn't need a computer for my work, I'd be tempted to cut off the Internet all together.

I'm in a PC room feeling my health deteriorate by the second. It's dark, smoky, and the worker just served me the most disgusting cup of coffee I've ever tasted. The worst part is there's some dad in here with his little kid. Why would you do that to your child?

I have several posts to make when my computer is back up and running, so you'll see me again soon.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Shutterfly Holiday Photo Cards

I first heard about Shutterfly about five years ago from my best friend, Meg. After our trip to Australia, she sent me a beautiful magnet featuring us petting a koala at a sanctuary. It's still on my fridge. I'm not sure why I didn't check out Shutterfly then. Maybe it was because I live in Korea, and I always tend to think shipping will be a pain in the neck. But now I know that Shutterfly has convenient shipping to international customers.

Fast forward five years and I'm still living abroad, but now with a beautiful 22-month-old little girl. I do send out cards every holiday season, but this year I really want to share some memories we have made over the past year. I'm thinking holiday photo card. Actually, I was thinking the same thing last year, but I was extremely busy this time 2009 with writing an ESL book, caring for an infant who wouldn't sleep at night, and worrying about a husband in the hospital. So I've decided this is the year to send out a beautiful Christmas card to our friends and family. This is made even more exciting by the fact that I recently purchased a DSLR camera and actually have good quality photos to share.

The problem is: which photo layout to choose?! There are hundreds to choose from! I kind of like the simple single photo style, but then you're limited to one photo, so it'd better be a good one. Since I have so many photos of Grace that I love, I'll probably choose a multi-photo layout. Here are some of my top picks. Please feel free to leave a comment and let me know which one you like best.Some things to keep in mind when creating a card on Shutterfly. Once you're a member, you can create and save several photo cards. I've already been in there fooling around with possible layouts and photos. I just save the project and then I can return to it at any time, or compare it to another card. Also, you can do some minor editing of photos when you're working on the card. For example, you can change the crop on a photo, change it to black and white or sepia, boost the saturation, or add slight blurriness (more like a glow). So don't worry about preparing your photos to perfection before you start making your card. Just upload your photos to a Shutterfly album first, and then you can add them to a card and alter them there.

I'm really excited about getting and sending out my personalized Christmas cards. Time is ticking and it's getting a little late to order and send out holiday cards internationally, but I think that my friends and family back home would rather get a beautiful Christmas card with photos in January than get a store-bought card in December. Anyway, I suspect if I order soon and send them out right away, they will arrive in time for Christmas.

One final note: I think these types of cards are even more relevant to expat families, since their families back home are missing out on so many beautiful memories. This way, you can share memories in such an elegant way. And in this digital age when so few people actually get their photos printed, it's so nice to have a tangible keepsake from friends and family. For the past two years, Karen has given me a photo card of her family and they are now in my photo album. People will not toss out these cards in January!

Do you want 50 free holiday cards from Shutterfly? Click here to go to Shutterfly for information on how you can get 50 free cards this holiday season, and make sure to select Clever 1000 as the referral source. This post is part of a series sponsored by Shutterfly.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

More changes

Here is an update post on little Grace, who is getting bigger every day. What prompted me to make this post is seeing all kinds of changes in her recently.

This may seem hard to believe, but she went to bed Friday night and woke up Saturday a really different little girl. She definitely hit some kind of big development leap. Starting Saturday, she has had really high energy and has been really interested in everything. She suddenly wants to do everything herself, and says so. She has been eating like a trucker. She is putting more words together, in both languages. She gets frustrated really easily and has thrown some tantrums over silly things. For example, she spent a long time "helping" me hang up wet clothes, and when there was no more to hang, she threw a giant tantrum. She sat on the swing by herself for the first time on Saturday (usually she sits on my lap). She fell off twice (thud) and didn't cry. She likes to talk about people and experiences that have happened in the past. She keeps talking about how she fell off the swing. She talks about her uncle who brought a cake over on Sunday. She'll tell me what she ate for breakfast. She doesn't seem as keen on TV and has been taking more interest in her books again. She is saying hello/annyonghaseyo to random people on the street. She also likes to tell them that I made her hat. She is allowing me to shampoo her hair again, as long as we talk about all the animals that also shampoo their hair.

Quite seriously, a lot of this has just happened since this past weekend. She has been really happy, on a high almost, but at the same time she has a short temper, so watch out. I suppose she is just getting to know herself and is excited about all the things she can do by herself now. I suspect it's also a little growth spurt. It's been really cool, but exhausting. I guess this is what having a toddler is like.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Time for some changes

I had my heart set on going home, and now I am not. However, I've been offered a great opportunity, so I have to try to focus on the good. I'm getting jobs that thousands of other ESLers would love to have a shot at. Yes, some of it is because of my visa status, but I have spent the last few years slaving away on writing and editing contracts that don't pay very much. Finally, my hard work has paid off and I have the chance to work with a more prestigious company. That is good.

Problem is, my morale is down. I've been looking forward to a change of scenery, lifestyle, career...everything. So instead of moping about it, I'm going to have to suck it up and start appreciating what I have right now: a fantastic job, a beautiful family, and life in a dynamic country like Korea (it's not always "good" dynamic, but it certainly is dynamic). I need to get my morale up in order to stay on top of the demanding workload I have ahead of me for the next two months.

Working from home is not as great as it sounds. You get lazy, you get distracted, and then you get down because you got lazy and distracted. Then you stay up really late doing the work you should have done during the day. I consider myself a fairly self-disciplined person, but over the last few years, my productivity has gone way down. I'm going to have to fix that, pronto. In reality, although the workload is great, I should be able to get my work done during the day so that I can recover in the evening.

My plan is to make a very detailed work schedule with many tiny deadlines. I also plan to buy a laptop computer so I can do work outside the home (thank goodness for the 10% pay advance on contract signing!). My ultimate goal is to do my work Monday to Friday, during the day, leaving my evenings and weekends free for relaxation and early bedtimes. I would also like to take a weekend trip out of town with Grace to see a friend. Think I can pull all this off? Stay tuned...

Life is strange

It is. I'm not superstitious or religious, but sometimes things happen that make me go, "huh?"

I had decided 100% that I was going to leave Korea by November or December. I had finally, after many years, made up my mind. Then, today, I'm in Seoul talking over a contract with a major international publisher for fantastic money (think about 5 times what Korean publishers have paid me). So I'll be here 'til February.

And then what? I know that I definitely want to live in Canada. But what if there is more incredible work with that or other publishers? Head home to tough it out, or stay longer and make the wons in hopes of someday getting in at a Canadian office?

One thing at a time. This project I'm taking on is quite a lot of work, and I have to do it well. I get down to work on Monday.

In contrast to my complicated life:Oh, to be a kid again!


I didn't do a post for Halloween.

We had a nice time out at Children's Grand Park. It wasn't very Halloween-y though. Grace had fun looking at the animals and of course, collecting the candy, which is still being rationed at one per day after dinner. Although this morning she managed to find her candy bag while I wasn't looking and got a mouth full of candy corn.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Happy Birthday to me

I really didn't see this birthday coming. I'm not doing too much. I'm going to go and get my haircut and meet Sejin at Outback for a late lunch (he got a gift certificate on his birthday in September). I have to write a teacher's guide unit tonight, and I really don't want to. I'd love to goof off and do some knitting. So many unfinished projects.And if I'm still in Korea for my next birthday (not a high probability), I will be requesting that Gerry make me this cake I saw here.

Saturday, October 30, 2010


One of those days.

I hate how Sejin has to work Saturdays. It just seems so wrong when he goes to work at noon, I look at Grace and say, So now what? What to do to amuse ourselves in Uijeongbu on a Saturday afternoon with no car?

We started our day at the doctor's. It was beyond in no seats available and people waiting outside. Somehow, we got in fairly quickly. Sejin suspects they sent us in early. The nurses and receptionists dote on Grace, bring her behind the reception desk, give her candy, take her picture, all that. So we got in quickly and got Grace her flu shot. I have no idea what technique the doctor is using to administer these shots, but the last two times, she has not cried at all -- not even a whine. She gets her Pororo bandaid and lollipop (this seems to be her main concern), says good-bye to the doctor, and off we go. It's really unbelievable. She did realize it happened because shortly after she pointed at her arm and said something. I asked if it hurt and she said yeah. I guess she's just a tough one.

Then Sejin left for work (that's when Grace did cry) and we went home for lunch and naptime. After she finally went down, she slept for 2.5 hours, which is a bit strange. She got up and I realized that tomorrow is the big Halloween get-together at Children's Grand Park. I could have easily picked up a bag of mini chocolate bars to hand out, but I wanted to put in more effort, so I loaded Grace in the stroller and off we went to Lucky Mart. It's almost impossible to find Halloween goods in Korea unless you're in Itaewon or a party goods store in Namdaemun, so I knew there would be nothing in Uijeongbu. I managed to find some cellophane bags and orange ribbon, and of course, candy. It was after I got home that I realized I had left the cellophane at the store.

I didn't give up. I cut up some hanji paper and taped it together into bags. They look so ghetto, but I don't think the kids will mind. It's more fun to open a little bag of treats than just get a candy, I think. We'll see.

The house is a disaster and Grace has been giving me trouble sleeping this past week or two. She wants me to sing song after song and gives me every excuse in the book for getting up. I'm just exhausted. I try not to get worked up about it because she tends to have a little sleep upset every month or so and then goes back to normal. Who knows what goes on in their minds. When I just went into her room she seemed to be telling me something about a bug flying around. Or maybe she was talking about the praying mantis we saw at the playground today. I'll be happy when she can express herself better.

That is quite an incoherent blog post, but I'm going to leave it as it is and get some work done while I can. Big day tomorrow.

By the way, does anyone know what these berries are? I know embarrassingly little about plant life. I thought this tree was so pretty, so I parked Grace in front of it and took a picture.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Following Through

I've been procrastinating worse than ever these days, and with the amount of things I have to do, I really can't afford to. So I've been listening to quite a lot of self-help audio books in an attempt to get myself pumped up in order to do what I've got to do. Problem is, they work for a very limited amount of time. I turn off my mp3 player resolved to do everything I need to do right now, feeling like I can take on anything and succeed. Later that night, I'm eating Pringles and Facebooking rather than working on the book I should be writing (Sejin: do not get chips in the Homeplus order ever again).

The most recent selection I've been listening to is a one hour interview with psychologist Steve Levinson who wrote "Following Through." I really like his ideas. The premise of his book (which I haven't read yet) is that we are simply flawed as human beings when it comes to following through. We are really good at creating good intentions. We know what is best for us and what we should do. But it is a design flaw that prevents us from actually doing. Unlike the squirrel who frantically gathers and stores nuts in preparation for winter without wasting any time, we almost always choose to do what feels good right now, until there is a compelling reason to do otherwise. Since we are flawed and have this natural tendency to procrastinate, we have to find ways to trick ourselves into getting things done. I haven't finished listening to the whole interview yet, but I thought this was an interesting and funny story:

He describes a man he knew who decided he needed to get up a half-hour earlier (at 5:30 a.m.) every morning in order to do some studying he could not fit into his day. He tried, but of course, he could not get up earlier. So he set an alarm clock in his room for 5:30 a.m., and set another clock in his children's room for 5:35 a.m.. Every morning, he knew that if he did not get up at 5:30 and rush to his children's room to turn off their alarm, they would wake up cranky and his wife would be furious. This worked.

I like this guy's approach better than the typical self-help books out there because he does not appeal to your emotions like they do. It's comforting to think that this is a problem we all share. I'm not perfect and I can't do anything I set my mind to, like Tony Robins says I can. But I can take calculated measures to improve my productivity, which will feel rewarding in itself and lead to more productivity.

I can do something like, for example, end this blog post.

Last Class

I finished teaching my last ESL class at 6:40 p.m. I really do not enjoy teaching ESL, so I was happy to be done. But at the same time, I was a bit sad to leave my students. I have these protective feelings about them because they've come so far with me. I'm not the best ESL teacher in town, but I was able to help each of them improve in some way. The teacher they had before me was terrible, and many of the kids were confused about the basics. Now I feel that they each have a much firmer grasp of English conversation and grammar. Some of them had really low confidence about speaking English, and now nearly jump out of their seats to answer each question. So, I had mixed feelings about leaving them. But I must move on. I have an entire teacher's guide to write in the next week and then I have to decide on what to do with eight years worth of stuff. Oh yes, and the application.
A few of my favourite pics of my students.