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.