November 17, 2017


The other day, I was looking through old photos, photos of when we first moved into our home and noticed how bare it looked. Bare but very nice. We were just moving into this new space and finding homes for all our things but we had also moved while I was on a big minimalist kick. I threw away or donated many of our items, including all my books (except my absolute favorites - less than 20), little collectables which always gave me a headache because they would collect dust and was a pain to clean and clothes. Lots of clothes. I kept only things that we needed, used often or really liked. And we only bought things we absolutely needed or really liked, sometimes putting items on a wish list and waiting to buy it after a few weeks if we still thought we wanted it or needed it. It turned out we ended up not needing a lot of things.

We were pretty good about keeping this lifestyle until one day I noticed clutter and that we didn't have space in our house to put things. We don't have a lot of storage space in our home to begin with and I don't like it when it looks like a lot of junk is just jammed in there. And I hate putting things away in hard to reach places to be completely forgotten. It'll just sit there unused for years and years , which is completely pointless to me. I like all my things within reach, which can be taken out and put back in with ease. If we don't have space for it, we don't need it.

Unfortunately I have forgotten my minimalist motto and now have one too many yarn baskets, throw blankets, dog beds and furniture including a kitchen island we recently bought that I'm desperately regretting but don't have the heart to tell Yangkyu. While he thought the kitchen island was a good idea as well, he is often the more wiser of the two of us when it comes to buying things we need vs. buying things we don't need. We also come from different schools of thinking -- me, I used to think buy it and if I don't need it later then donate or throw it out. Yangkyu, once he buys something, he will keep it forever and ever and ever. He doesn't have the heart to throw things out. Even iPhone and iPad boxes. He thinks there will be a use for them later on. I throw it out later without him knowing and he never knows that it's gone. I always tell him he takes after his late mother. When she passed away and we were cleaning out her apartment, we found all sorts of old (I mean really old) Korean newspaper clippings of "Let's Learn English" columns to an old beat up beach parasol (so random) to cassette tapes (she didn't have a cassette player). Anyway, I digress.

That kitchen island we bought because we don't have enough counter top space to cook with (more) comfort (elbow room, etc.). I rationalized that since I'm cooking more and more now, it'll be easier to have that moving kitchen island to have my vegetables sprawled out, cutting board and knife out along with different mixing bowls, etc.. I had completely forgotten my golden rule -- if you don't have enough space for things with the space you already got, you have too many things. 

And so I'm in a predicament. I can't throw out or donate that kitchen island or other clutterly things around the house because, well, it's too wasteful. While we are comfortable with what we make in terms of salary, we don't have the luxury to always buy and then throw out when the trend is over or when we don't need it anymore. 

My solution? 

I am mulling over different ideas to maximize our space without having to get rid of (many) things. And it's time to go through the medicine cabinet, condiments, craft items get rid of expired items and glues, markets and paint bottles that are old and dried out. And it's time to embrace my motto again and have a go at doing the waste challenge again on the daily (it's too hard to do the zero waste challenge but we try to do a version of it that challenges us enough that we don't try and create extra unnecessary waste). 

How do you manage "things" with the space you have?

November 15, 2017

Currently Knitting: Cowels

Me: What do you want for Christmas? 
Yangkyu: Hmmm.. a cowel. 
Me: Oh. I'll knit you one. 
Yangkyu: I want two. 
Me: I'll knit you two!
Yangkyu: Three. 
Me: I'll knit you three..!
Yangkyu: Five.
Me: Do you not want me to knit you a cowel? 

It's that time of year when we ask each other what we want for Christmas. I get to make a longer list of things because my birthday and Christmas fall just days from each other. Sometimes I add a big whammy and try to convince Yangkyu to get me that as a birthday/Christmas gift. A two for one kinda of deal. In the years past he got me my first DSLR and my first iMac. Such wonderful  wonderful surprises (I still remember the feeling and his face expressions when I opened them).

I still have that DSLR (Canon Rebel xsi) and that iMac I am still using today. While I would love to upgrade to a bigger iMac I don't think I will ever give away my first DSLR. I don't shoot with it at all now but there is just something about that first camera that I can't seem to part with.

I've begun knitting for the winter months. We like wearing cowels around here and so I've been knitting and crocheting those. I always download patterns because I want to try adding different colored yarns, patterns and cables but I always start the first couple using simple stitches. I don't even go off of a pattern. Just eyeball it. Maybe that's why Yangkyu would rather buy a cowel instead of me making one for him. Ha. They don't always turn out so pretty, or practical. 

This first cowel for the season I knitted with yarn I picked up at the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival. It was my first time going and I picked up a couple of skeins of yarn (white Shetland with 15% fawn angora) from the wonderful ladies at the Rosefield. They included with my purchase a small bottle of Eucalan Fine Fabric Wash and told me to try it when I block my work. I have never blocked any of my knits before and so it was a first for me. 

It's a slow evening for us. We had a couple of daycare dog guests come the past couple of days but starting tomorrow we will have several overnight guests come for the next week and a half through Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving has never really been a major holiday for us to celebrate and it doesn't excite me as much Christmas, but this particular year it's especially so. I don't look forward to our traditions (watching the Sound of Music and breaking out our 1000 puzzle piece) and our attempt at doing a vegan Thanksgiving doesn't seem so exciting anymore. Ah, maybe it's just one of those many funks I am go through -- always ebbs and flows.

November 9, 2017

Lately at Piri's Place

I'm still a little behind in putting pictures up from Piri's Place. But I'm kind of glad. I get to look back on Bartles when he was still with us.

I miss him and our little ritual. I miss his lazy sleeps and peaceful rests and how friends would nap next to him. Such precious friendships. I wonder if they miss him as much as I do. 

These are from May. In just two months, we would say our see you laters with Mr. B who would cross the rainbow bridge so suddenly and unexpectedly.

We miss you, Mr. Bartles {nose boop}.

November 8, 2017

A cocker and friends meet up in Hongdae

Boy am I really dragging our Korea posts on for an eternity. 

In my last post I had said that we would be back in Paju to visit a little art village but it had been so long since our trip that I completely forgot about a couple more Seoul related posts before we head on back to Paju and the tail end of our travels to Korea. 

First, a very special meeting happened on a warm weekend in Hongdae. A group of people who belong to cockers and friends came from near and far to meet Yangkyu and I. I was a bit nervous in the beginning to meet everyone (what will I say? what if I can't speak Korean because I get so nervous? What if we come off completely awkward?) but was so sad to say good bye when it came time to part.

Instagram has given us the opportunity to"meet" some of the most kindest and caring people who have laughed and cried with us through some of our happiest and saddest times of our lives. The mutual love of dogs created this bond and while I am quite shy and wary of meeting people (severe introvert here), I have always felt beyond thankful by their warm gesture. It's the kind of gesture that I have trouble expressing to others but have received in heaps (I sometimes want to reach out a hand but am afraid that I'll say the wrong thing or cross boundaries. Perhaps because I'm so sensitive to what others say and do, I put the fear on myself when it's me who is doing the talking or doing).

When Piri passed, I received such an overwhelming response from people all over the world and have received gifts to help us cope and remember Piri by. Just 9 months later when Bartles suddenly left us, they were there again, wishing us condolences, a shoulder to cry on and messages of support. 

Some of the people who have been a part of our journey, and us theirs, were there that day in Hongdae. 

  // Ji-Oh and Buddle // 

  // Pok Pok, White Schnauzer, and Michael (pronounced mi-ka-el), Maltese // 

I can't quite remember the name of the restaurant (their speciality is chicken though and is located across from a popular croissant bakery - there was literally a line of people waiting for the bakery to open) but it's dog friendly. I believe the owners have dogs themselves and inside there are little wooden crates for dogs to rest while their humans can enjoy a meal. Dogs are, of course, welcomed to rest under the table or in the arms of their owners as well. 

I don't think I have ever experienced a restaurant here in the US where dogs are allowed inside (there was one in St. Augustine but we never ate there). The feeling I got was that people are more flexible with dogs going inside cafes, stores and restaurants in Korea, although you must always ask (given). Perhaps there are less regulations and customers threatening to sue. I could be completely wrong as I don't live in Korea and don't know what it's like to have dogs there but it was just an initial observation and wishing that we had restaurants like this back home to take Bartles to (there are dog friendly restaurant but we must always sit outside, which doesn't always work when the weather is cold or too hot). 

  // Best buds // 

  // The wooden crates for pets to rest inside the restaurant // 

You would think that there might have been some awkward silences and moments but there was none of that. Some of the personalities present were outrageously funny and warm and inviting and the ice broke right away for everyone to feel close and comfortable.

After a hearty lunch (reservation, ordering and even footing the bill was all done by Win's owners - thank you again!), we headed over to a nearby cafe which was also very dog friendly. I loved the set up of the place, especially the tables that requires you to take your shoes off to sit with folded legs instead of on chairs. There are tables there with chairs to people who prefer that.

At the cafe, we had a bonanza taking pictures of the dogs, interacting with them a bit more since we had more room and talking a bit more. 

At the very end, we were able to meet one more person who belonged to the Korean cocker family club, whose cocker also crossed the rainbow bridge. She is now married and her and her husband belong to another... you guessed it, cocker spaniel. 

I am not quite sure if I said my thank you's properly this day because it was a little hectic meeting new people and dogs to boot. But thank you for taking the time to come out and making us feel so comfortable. 

That night I had a dream about Piri. He was running about like the dogs I had met, which was so great to see, but he kept running away -- going down into sewers and swimming away. I was so scared of losing him because he was so fast. He was so elusive but so vibrant. Perhaps it mirroring real life -- Piri healthy and energetic across the rainbow bridge and me feeling like he is so far away.  

For a few more pictures from this day, you can visit here - it's a blog (written in Korean) of one of the cocker owners (Buddle) who gifted us with a children's book titled "Dog Heaven". It is now my favorite book.

Next post we'll go on a little adventure, again in Hongdae, picking up clues at an escape room cafe, playing new games at a board room cafe and chilling out with cats at a cat cafe. Hope you'll join us for those adventures.

 // Korea, according to my iPhone (pt. 2)
 // A Gem in Hongdae

November 7, 2017

Election Day Thoughts

It's Election Day here in Virginia where we have a Gubernatorial Race happening. We've endured endless political propaganda on TV and have had many canvassers come to our home reminding us to  go vote and sharing their candidates' platforms. I always give them my time and attention and never rush them because I used to do Get Out the Vote (GOTV) work and know how hard it can be. 

Yangkyu and I go to the polls every year together - it's sort of become our thing. We used to take Piri and Bartles with us and one of us would wait in the car while the other goes votes. Yangkyu also had the option of remote work for a while and so it was always easy for him to opt to work from home on Election Day so we could always make it a family affair. 

This year it took a bit more coordination with his new job and him no longer having the option of remote work. Yangkyu also has night class today which means he needed to get into work earlier so that he could fill his hours to leave early to go to class, which just made everything more complicated.  Normally leave for work at 6 am today but that's when polls would open. 

Yangkyu does, I believe, qualify to apply for absentee voting but I don't. Which still puts us in a predicament because I have a guest dog today and we have a policy of never leaving the dogs unsupervised, not even for a short while. 

We couldn't go after Yangkyu comes home after class (polls would close by then) and we couldn't go separately (my guest dogs) and so we ended up getting up at the crack of dawn and heading to the polls around 5:45 am with just Hank, our guest dog. Lady ended up waiting at home because we really needed this to be a super quick rushed affair so that Yangkyu could hit the road to go to work by 6:15 am latest.

Thankfully the lines weren't ridiculous and we were done with voting by 6:20 am. It wasn't a pleasant experience. It just felt so hectic and rushed.

You know, when I used to live in California, everyone was eligible to vote by absentee. It was quick and simple and it made sure that people were not deterred from voting - whether it was because they had work or school or because of language or mobility issues.

When I used to live in New York, polls closed much later to accommodate as many people and workers as possible who had to commute long hours or got out of work later than the normal 9-5 schedule.

In Virginia, there is a set of eligibility requirements to vote absentee, none which I qualify for, and polls close by 7 pm. I kept thinking, for us, it was a bit of a pain to make sure we cast our vote today,  but we did it. I mean you gotta vote so jump through hoops right? But I was thinking about other families and students, and workers who were or felt they were deterred to go vote with such limitations, much harsher and difficult than ours. 

Voting should be not hard and complicated. Voting should be accessible and easy. 

PS - I used to volunteer to work as a poll worker (interpreter) in New York on election days and witnessed first hand many voters whose first languages weren't English who were discriminated against (we worked with lawyers from the Department of Justice to monitor these incidents) or had lost their votes because they were given the wrong instructions (NY had these ridiculous big ballot machines which were tricky to use and people would pull on the lever without casting their vote which ultimately lost them the chance to vote for their candidates). I have heard of cases where it was hard for people to even make it out to the polls because it was just too hard (mostly immigrant workers who didn't have flexible work schedules). I also know of many people who don't vote simply because they don't care or are unaware. Meanwhile they have all the privileges to make their voting experience a more comfortable one as they know the language to make informed decisions and ask questions if they don't know how to cast their vote, they have cars, they have flexible schedules. This bothers me to no end. 

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