Asia, Celebration, Dessert, Family, Food, Funny, Travel

Settle Down, Seoul

There’s some political unrest in Korea, in case you haven’t heard. One of my friends sent me a message the other day about how they were glad we weren’t in South Korea right now, but I had just been wishing I were there. 

His message reminded me of this post I’d written when I was there last. Same country, slightly different political outburst, but here it is: 

I accidentally got caught up in a political rally today. 

This happened in Thailand a few years ago, when I dared Jake to go wave the huge Thai flag. 

Jake at the Shutdown Bangkok rally

I don’t know if political rallies can be your thing, but I really kinda like them. Such a sense of national pride, even if it isn’t my own nation. 

A couple of my friends are a news anchor and a journalist for a newspaper here in Seoul, so both of them have been catching me up on the political climate. 

Hyoseung, the news anchor

This rally has nothing to do with North Korea, so no need for immediate concern. In case you don’t keep up on South Korean politics like I do, their president Park Geun-hye has recently been impeached. It’s a long story, but some people have accused her of being involved with a cult and all sorts of other things. She had a 5% approval rating and was finally impeached a few weeks ago. 

As I am told by my friends, even though she’s been impeached, they are still calling for her to resign her position. (Which if you’re reading this now, and not when I originally wrote it, you’ll know that she did resign). I’m not exactly sure why, some of the more technical political terms get lost in translation. But, you get the basic idea. People aren’t happy with her. 

We were taking a taxi back to our hotel today when we were stopped by a lot of commotion. I knew that there was going to be a candlelight vigil tonight in the city (as there has been every Saturday night since the impeachment) to peacefully protest the president. I also knew that they were expecting a million people to show up to said candlelight vigil. I, however, did not know that the million people would be marching down the sidewalk that leads to our hotel to get to the point at which the protest would take place. Which is what the taxi driver hurriedly spouted off to us in Korean as he dumped us out in the middle of the madness. 


I love the Korean people because they openly embrace Americans. So, upon seeing that we were walking with them, we were quickly given flags to carry and Korean flag pins to wear. We were asked by about 100 different people where we were from. We had our pictures taken with more random people than I could keep track of. I eventually just stood off to the side, holding my Korean flag and waiting for people to come stand by me for their picture. Someone came up to us with a video camera to ask us questions and film us as we were walking along. 


Then, someone asked us what broadcasting network we were with. Which got me to thinking: maybe I should become a journalist. I do have an affinity for crazy crowds and political unrest. 

If anyone needs some quick, unofficial coverage of a B list event, let me know. Until then, I’ll be down in Hongdae, eating these little beauties. 

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America, Celebration, Dessert, Family, Food, Funny, Summer

Birthdaze 

Since when does setting your alarm for 6:45 am feel indulgent? I don’t know, but there’s something about that extra 45 minutes that feels a little like eating ice cream for dinner. Does this mean I have officially reached adulthood?
Speaking of ice cream for dinner, I decided to cut sugar. Well, I’ve technically been off sugar since I came back from Laos. Actually, that’s not completely true either. What I mean by that is that I have been off of processed sugar. In Laos, there were very few options for anything processed. It was mostly all fruits and vegetables and rice. So, I didn’t eat any processed food for my three weeks there. Then, when I came home, the garden was finally producing, so I just continued. 
Side note: processed sugar is really addictive. I assume everyone already knows this. But, if anyone needs some suggestions of documentaries to watch or books to read on this point, I can definitely suggest some good ones! 
Back to my story though. Last week, on our fishing trip to Canada, my grandma made snacks to send with us, so I broke my no processed sugars contract with myself, promising I would get back on track when I got home. Unfortunately, it’s birthday week, which I forgot. So, now I’m stuck in a perpetual cycle of cake and ice cream events. I’m still trying to limit it, but who can pass up cake and ice cream for a birthday?
My mom’s birthday is July 14 and mine is July 22. I am almost never home on my birthday, due to church camp. See No Laughing Matter for the 2015 festivities. But, this year, it just so happens that it falls in the weekend before we go to camp. So, I don’t really know what to do with myself. 
Anyway, today is my mom’s birthday. The older I get, the more I realize that I am becoming more and more like her. (Which is mostly a good thing, love you, Mom!) Mostly I notice it in the conversations we have. We have a lot of the same patterns of speech, but more than that, we think in the same ways. We are both very detail oriented, so if anyone is telling us a story, we’ll both ask a lot of questions. We also share the same sense of humor. 
Which is why when Jake and I went to pick out her birthday cake, I knew it would be just right. If you know my mom, you know that she is very particular about certain things. This is where she and I part ways. I’m not picky at all. But, a few of the things she likes and will not compromise on: Coke (it cannot be Pepsi, it has to be Coca-Cola. Original. Not diet. Not caffeine free.) Ice (you cannot just have a cold drink, there has to be floating chips of frozen water in it) Whipped icing (buttercream won’t do).
Her favorite is a store bought (trust me, I would do homemade but she likes store bought better) white birthday cake with whipped icing. Jake and I knew this. Because it’s what she always got for us. So, we went in search of this cake. When we got to the store, they have a selection of cakes that you can choose from and then request writing on it. I assume that you can actually think ahead and call and order exactly what you want, but why would we plan to do that? Right. So, we were distressed to find that they didn’t have any with whipped icing. It was all buttercream, except for one lonely chocolate cake with whipped icing. And, you guessed it, chocolate won’t do. 
The bakery lady (Dee, as indicated by her name tag) noticed our distress and asked if she could help us. Jake explained what we were looking for and she said they had one last white cake with whipped icing that someone had just come in to claim. But, they hadn’t come back for it and she didn’t think they were going to. She showed it to us and it proudly stated “Happy Birthday, Zack!” 
Jake and I looked at each other. Then he said: we’ll take it just like that. Dee laughed, like we were joking. I proceeded to explain that it was just for our mom, for a little family birthday party, and that it didn’t really matter what it said, she just liked that kind of cake. Dee laughed again and said she couldn’t do that, she’d feel bad sending a cake with the wrong name on it. Finally, Jake said, just put a red X through it and write Mom out to the side. Well, Dee just thought that was the funniest thing anyone had ever asked her to do. But, we talked her into it, assuring her that it would be funnier than if it had been done right in the first place. 


She did what we asked and it was funny. So funny that she asked the other bakery girl to come take a picture of her handiwork. As we were walking away, with our prize birthday cake in hand, Dee said, thank you kids so much for that! I was having a bad day and I needed something to make me laugh and that just really made my day. And you tell your mom, Happy Birthday from all of us here at the grocery store.

So, Mom: Happy birthday from me and Jake! And also, from Dee and all the other unnamed people at the grocery store. Hope you have a good one!
(Also, Zack, if you happen to be reading this: happy birthday to you too, sorry for stealing your cake.)

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America, Celebration, Dessert, Family, Food, History

Surprise, Surprise

I’m not good at surprises. This should not come as a surprise to anyone. (pun totally intended) There are a lot of different reasons I could list for me not being good at surprising someone, but I’ll summarize it for you: 1) I’m not a good liar (which is typically an endearing quality, right?) and 2) I live in my own little world most of the time (which is fine except for you have to be pretty self aware to surprise someone) I have noticed though, that while these qualities make me terrible at surprising someone, they make me a great candidate to be surprised.                                                                                         

However, my whole family seemed to overlook this list of factors when they chose me and my brother to be in charge of taking my grandma to her surprise birthday party. Really, the best idea would’ve been for them to not tell me what was going on either and we both could’ve been surprised.

                                                                                                                                   

I really did a pretty good job, I think. I went over, in my mind, a list of safe topics to steer the conversation towards that didn’t involve anyone else who was in town for the party. I was cool and casual. I had a story as for why I was dressed up. And, she arrived at the party almost on time. I count that as a roaring success on my part. 

                                                                                                                                   

Today is my Grandma Connie’s birthday. I won’t tell you her age, however I will show you this picture and let you guess. 

                                                                                                                                   

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And since today is her birthday, I wanted to tell you about her. Because if you don’t know her, you’re missing out. 

                                                                                                                                   

She’s definitely not your typical grandma type. Let’s just say: she’s very independent. She doesn’t let anyone tell her what to do and she always has an opinion she’s not shy to share. She’s headstrong and free willed. Basically: she’s a force to be reckoned with. 

                                                                                                                                   

She’s one of four kids and she had five daughters, who all had two children. As you can tell, we have a large family. Having raised five daughters, I feel like Grandma has some solid life advice. I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite pieces of wisdom. 

                                                                                                                                   

1. Diamonds go with everything.

                                                                                                                                   

If you are questioning whether or not to wear your best jewelry, it is always a yes. This was said to me because I had changed from something dressy into something casual and still had on a necklace I had been wearing. I made a comment about how it clashed and she said “Brittney, I raised five girls and I told every one of them. ‘Girls, always remember: diamonds go with everything'” So, whether you’re going to a gala or just going to sleep, wear your best. Grandma’s orders. 

                                                                                                                                   

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Four of the five daughters at the party

                                                                                                                                   

2. Don’t waste your time with desserts that aren’t homemade. 

                                                                                                                                   

It’s not worth your time or calories. I feel like this same principle could be applied to a lot of different things in life. It’s about quality and time invested and effort.

                                                                                                                                   

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Three generations of homemade Rice Krispy makers

                                                                                                                                   

3. “Whether the wedding costs $5 or $5000, it either takes or it doesn’t.”

                                                                                                                                   

This obviously is dated because $5000 won’t buy you a very fancy wedding these days. But, she preaches this one quite a bit. It doesn’t matter what type of wedding you have, if the relationship isn’t solid to begin with, you’ve missed the point. I can attest to this because my parents eloped and they will be celebrating their 30th anniversary this year. Looks like Grandma was right about this one too. 

                                                                                                                                   

4. They can chew me up, but they sure can’t swallow me. 

                                                                                                                                   

This actually comes to us from my great Grandpa Teasley. So, she’ll always say: “Brittney, Dad always said… Then she’ll repeat this same quote to me every time. Thus, my memorization of it. Essentially, people can and will say what they want about you. But, ultimately, you’ve gotta stand up for what you believe in and ignore the haters. Grandma obviously didn’t say anything about ignoring the haters, that is my own personal summary of what she said. You’re welcome. 

                                                                                                                                   

There are so many more that I could talk about, and I know that I’ll think of 100 others after I post this. She’s a lady with a lot of sayings. But, sometimes it’s not the sayings that teach you the lesson, but rather the way the person lives. She instilled in us all the value of hard work, never looking down on someone else because of their status in life, but never thinking that anyone or anything was above you or out of your reach. She taught us to always look for a chance to give and help, to share what we have, and to be nice to people even when we don’t think they deserve it.

                                                                                                                                   

Grandma Connie is not perfect, she’ll be the first to tell you that. In fact, she told a joke the other day that made me blush. She’s that type of grandma. But, her life is a testimony to the lessons she’s taught. And quite a few of those lessons are worth taking note of. Surprise, surprise.

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Craft, Dessert, Farm, Food

I Think I Can…

There is nothing like homemade bread. Nothing. I have been craving it for days. Mostly because I just finished reading a book about the Russian autocracy and it mentioned bread quite a bit. So, next on my list to bake: Russian black bread. I’ll let ya know how that goes. The thing about baking bread is it’s a process. This one is a 12 hour process, with all the rising and such that has to take place. So, you can’t just have it when you want it. You have to plan for it. Which probably makes it taste that much better. This is one of my classics: maple oat bread. I found the recipe in the Spring and I think I’ve made it a dozen times since then. It’s so good!

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You know what goes great on bread? Homemade jam. Which I made a few weeks ago for the very first time. Out of mulberries I picked. How much more down home do you get than that?

Fresh picked mulberries

Fresh picked mulberries

I have always wanted to try my hand at canning, so I got up the nerve and finally did it. We were going to visit our friends while in Canada, so I thought mulberry jam seemed like an appropriate gift. TSA agreed with me after they checked all my carefully bubble wrapped jars. After they went through it, they probably thought it was a grandma’s bag. But, nope, just me, a twenty something girl, hauling jam across international borders.

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If you’re going to make jam, you need to have a bunch of sugar. Like so much sugar that it literally made me feel a little anxious. I never use that much sugar for anything. Plus, I had just watched a documentary on the decay of America’s eating habits and how sugar is to blame for that. So, expert tip: don’t watch a sugar doc right before making jam.

Also to make jam, you need a whole bunch of fancy utensils that you can dirty up. Just go ahead and take out half the dishes you have and plan to get a sticky purple mess all over them. The instructions said I would need a special pot that had a basket for the jars to go in. You fill the pot up with boiling water, then completely submerge your jars in a few different steps. Well, I didn’t have the fancy pot or a mason jar basket. So, I improvised and used a steamer basket, the spaghetti noodle pot, and a pair of tongs. Was it the most practical? No. Did two pairs of tongs get hung up in the steamer basket at the same time and nearly spill boiling water everywhere? Yes. Did it work even though it wasn’t the fancy set up I should have had? Yes.

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After making the jam, I had a little leftover, so I made a jar and didn’t seal it. Since I needed an expert opinion on whether or not the jam was good, I asked a friend to take the extra jar home and test it out. Turns out the cup holders in my car fits a jam jar perfectly. And I got his seal of approval. Pun definitely intended.

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Have jam. Will travel.

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Celebration, Culture, Dessert

To-Do Tally

I literally have about half a dozen to do lists going right now. I have things written everywhere, on every scrap of paper that was within reach at the moment. I have things written on my hand. Earlier, I had the feeling I was forgetting something, so I checked the list on my hand, thinking that was where I had hastily written it down at. When I discovered the thing I had forgotten wasn’t there, I actually checked my other palm to make sure it wasn’t written down there before remembering that if it were written there, it would’ve been written with my left hand, rendering it unreadable anyway. So, then I went in search of the scrap of paper I had written it down on, which I have yet to find. This has been my whole week. Welcome to June.

How my brain looks

How my brain looks

To add to the madness, I (the named Special Events Coordinator at church) decided we should do Vacation Bible School early this year because I waited until the end of July last year and it was blazing hot. So, I planned our VBS for next week. Good idea. I took orders for 2048 pieces this week, which will go into production in the shop next week. Guess who I chose to help me with VBS and head up Storytime and Crafts. Only the two most dependable guys I know, who also happen to be my co-workers. My brain is frazzling just trying to think of how everything is getting accomplished. Thus, the million to-do/remember this lists.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Northwest Arkansas, this past week has also been what we fondly refer to as “Walmart Week”. Some people love it, some people hate it. To be honest, I haven’t looked up from my desk long enough to notice it much. But, the traffic is worse when we go out to make deliveries, so there’s that. Walmart is an institution around here. We live 20 miles from where it was founded and there is a lot of pride associated with it in this area. Say what you want about it, but it has brought a lot of jobs and we have a thriving local economy to show for it. It is just a way of life around here.

At the Walmart Museum in Bentonville with a replica of Sam Walton's original truck

At the Walmart Museum in Bentonville with a replica of Sam Walton’s original truck

In case you aren’t super familiar with Walmart, I’ll provide you a few facts [which were provided to me by Jake because #1: he’s always got useless, interesting facts like this floating around in his head and #2: do you really think I would know this on my own?]

Fact #1: If Walmart were a country, it’s GDP would land it #26 in the world, right after Austria and right before Norway.

Fact #2: Walmart is the world’s largest employer, just in front of the US Department of Defense and the Chinese Army.

Fact #3: The people who work at Walmart corporate are known as Wal-Martians here.

Fact #4: Wal-Martians can give you the reference number of every store in the area. So, instead of calling it Bentonville Walmart, it is known as Store 100.

So, what is Walmart Week? It is the week where the shareholders from all around the world flood into Northwest Arkansas and are provided with free concerts every night (Train, Lifehouse, and Lynard Skynard among others have been on the docket this year.) There are celebrities that come into town to speak and host events. It’s always a surprise, so everyone goes to the event not knowing which A-List celeb is going to show up on the stage. This year Reese Witherspoon was the MC of the event. It’s kind of a big deal apparently. I don’t go to any of the events, but all my friends who work for Walmart go and so I hear all about it. The celebs and concerts aren’t really my concern. What is my concern is the fact that I went to Sam’s Club last night (basically the wholesale store of a regular Walmart) and noticed that they had fresh flowers in the bathrooms and free cupcakes at the door. Forget all the other hoopla, where there are free cupcakes, there I will be. Walmart, you are welcome here.

Fresh flowers at the sinks

Fresh flowers at the sinks

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Dessert, Food

Day In The Life Of

I had a really long day. So, I decided to put my dog in a hat and take a picture. Because there is just something so funny to me about dogs in hats. You just can’t help but smile. Lilly was less than thrilled.

My favorite co-worker

My favorite co-worker

People ask me what I do all day. Which is a really good question. Some days, as you can see, I stop to take pictures of my dog in a hat. I mean, you have to appreciate the small moments in life. Other days, I do embroidery on hats. All. Day. Long. Actually, the dog picture and the embroidery happened on the same day. I think the embroidery drove me nearly to the point of insanity. If you’ve never had the pleasure of running an embroidery machine (with fifteen needles and fifteen bolts of thread) that continually beeps at you every time a thread breaks for 8 hours a day, I’d invite you to come try it. These hats were 16000 stitches x 14 hats. In case you can’t calculate that, I’ll make it simple: there were a lot of thread breaks (and a lot of beeping and some frazzled nerves).

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What I really mostly do is answer emails and take apparel orders and get designs together for said apparel orders and basically make sure everyone has the answers and things they need. And in between all of this, sometimes I bake pies. I know, I live a tough life. There is a purpose for the pie though. I decided when my friends and I became twenty something’s (you know after all the monumental birthdays are over), we still needed to celebrate. But can we all agree that cake seems a little overdone? Okay, now that we’re on the same page, pie. It’s one of the best things. And, on your birthday, you deserve the best. So, on birthdays, I bake pies. Amy’s was the most recent.

Apple Pie

Amy’s Apple Pie

But, really, my actual job (not my pie-baking sideline) does encompass some odd tasks. I got an email from one of our regular customers after I had been helping her with her design for a kindergarten graduation shirt. She needed names put on the back, and said she’d mailed them to me. I kept waiting to receive the new email from her. The next day, I went to the mailbox and there was a big envelope from her. Sure enough, she mailed (not emailed) me the kids names. All hand written on notecards. So, that day, I had to lay them all out and take pictures for our designer to recreate. And, just in case you were wondering, arranging notecards of kindergarten names was not included in my original job description. I did, however, go ahead and write it down on my resume’, so my next employer will know the full extent of my qualifications.

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It’s not a glamorous job, but it’s definitely never boring. And, on the good days, you get pie. Now that’s hard to beat.

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