Art for the People!

Here’s a suggestion! Instead of buying expensive art, how about just mounting pieces of paper on your wall with painter’s tape instead?

Just kidding…though this is actually what my bedroom wall has looked like for the past couple of weeks.

When I was in Seoul last year, I bought some prints at the National Folk Museum of Korea and stuck them on my office wall with adhesive mounting tabs. They are a type of minhwa (folk painting) I’ve long admired, called chaekkori or munbangdo, i.e.: still life paintings of books and other scholarly paraphernalia. I have some reproduction scrolls featuring this genre of art:

including this one:

…which is still hanging on my office wall:

This style of painting became popular in the late 18th century during King Jeongjo’s reign in the Joseon dynasty. In these paintings the scholar’s “four friends”: paper, ink, a brush, and an inkstand are always depicted. Additional symbolic items may also be included, such as a pomegranate to represent fertility, eggplants to symbolize male children, or gourds to symbolize long life, wealth, and happiness. In King Jeongjo’s palace, chaekkori paintings were mounted on screens and used as a backdrop behind every scholar’s desk. What began as a royal conceit to reflect a reverence for scholarship, became the height of fashion. Korean parents would sometimes hang these paintings in their children’s rooms to inspire them to study, which, when I think about it, strikes me as possibly THE most Korean thing ever.

Lately we’ve been making some changes to our master bedroom, and I decided the prints would look perfect over our new bed. Michael’s had ready made frames on sale for almost half off at $22.49 each. The prints are not all the same size, but that problem was solved when the framing department custom cut mats for me for about $25 each. They would have charged about $60 more per print just to insert them into the frames, but who needs that?! So, to frame all three prints, it cost less than $150.

This is as far as I’ve gotten:

I removed the paper inserts from the frames, attached them to the backs, and marked where the hooks are:

…Which brings us back to this:

One of these days, maybe tomorrow (?!), I’ll actually get around to putting in the nails and hanging the pics. Stay tuned for the finished look!

Until then, because I am a Korean mother after all, I thought I’d create my own modern day chaekkori tableau to inspire my children to greater heights of academic achievement:

So uplifting, right? (Those poor, poor children).


Weekend Snapshots 40


UVA Men’s Soccer Game



Things are already getting busy with the start of the school year. We snuck in one last trip to Arlington while we still had the chance.

We made our now obligatory stop at Yoder’s for road snacks and to see the goats…

This time there were the cutest piglets!!!

You did know that Saturday was National Pot de Crème day, right?!

OK, neither did we. We found out when we arrived in Arlington and my sister served this delicious dessert in pots de crème so exquisite and delicate we were nervous the whole time we were eating them!

After lunch we took a steamy hot trek through Washington DC to the National Geographic Museum, where we saw “The Greeks” exhibit.

I had a late night visit with my bff…We don’t get to see each other as often as I would like, but every time we do, I feel so lucky to have her in my life.


Before I headed back to C’ville, I spent some time with my sister messing around with my dad’s bookshelves in our attempt to take some photos of our sister’s soon-to-be-released novel Tiger Pelt. There are only THREE more days to enter for your chance to read it before everyone else in the Goodreads giveaway here!


School notes

I always feel melancholy when this day arrives. Today was the first day of school for my three children. For us, summer has always been a blessed respite from the relentless daily grind of homework and whip-cracking that happens during the school year. The long, slothy days filled with music, books, play, and daydreaming are over now. Even before the actual start of school, my oldest boy was doing lengthy summer reading and writing assignments that were due today.

The two boys are at the same school for the first time in years. It’s my 14 year old’s first year of high school.


For the first time in forever, all three kids are on the same bus and on the same schedule!


Obligatory first day of school photo.


Here we go again…

The bees’ knees

What is it with you and animal husbandry?!” I’ve heard my husband say more than once in a voice laden with anxiety and despair when I’ve fantasized out loud about having a mini-farm with cute animals only, or getting a couple pet goats, or sheep, or maybe a few ducks…One day the topic of bees somehow came up, and I was suitably shocked when he actually expressed an interest in setting up a beehive in our backyard.

My friend Allie happens to have a couple honey bee hives of her own and an extra bee suit. She agreed to give me a tutorial and to let me hang out with her while she checked on her bees. It was a magical experience! Extremely hot and super sweaty…but magical nonetheless!

Allie was in the process of combining the two hives she keeps. One of the hives was failing. She thought the colony’s queen may have died, because she hadn’t seen any baby bees in a while. She had stacked the weaker hive on top of the stronger one, separating the two with a layer of paper that had been pierced in a few places. Eventually, the bees in the lower compartments chew their way through the paper to reach the upper box. By the time the bees make their way up to the top, the distinct scents of the two colonies have commingled. Instead of confronting their enemies in an epic battle to the death, the two colonies think they’re all part of one big happy block party.

I was put in charge of the smoker…

I would periodically puff smoke at the bees to get them to move out of the way and to calm them down a bit so they didn’t get too agitated when Allie moved their boxes around.

Allie discovered that the bees were creating a queen cell to possibly make a new queen:

Beekeeping was a lot more work than I was expecting it to be, and I’m not sure if we’ll be setting up a hive of our own anytime soon, but I’ll definitely go back to help Allie with her bees…Maybe when it’s cooler!



We were in a local kebob restaurant the other day, pondering the wide array of choices.

“Do you guys know what you’d like to have?” I asked my kids.

The boys wanted beef kebobs. My daughter was more uncertain.

“I think I want to try the kibbeh,” she said sheepishly, (there’s no other word for it).

“What’s kibbeh?” I asked.

“Lamb,” she whispered guiltily.

“Oh! It’s OK! Go ahead and try it!”

When I asked her how it was, she replied, “I really feel bad about saying this, but…it’s delicious.”

Sometimes my 16 year old likes to mess with his sensitive little sister.

When she coos over a panda video, for example, he might casually interject: “I wonder what panda tastes like?”

We had a conversation like this just the other day…Almost all of my daughter’s friends are into horses these days. The 16 year old wondered out loud how they’d react if she asked them what they thought horse tasted like. And then he had a sudden thought.

He turned to me and asked, “Wait a minute, have YOU ever tasted horse?!”

“Ummm, yes, actually, I did once.” I was forced to admit, “It was served to me in France a long time ago.”

“How did it taste?”

“I don’t even remember…gamey, I guess?”

“But what does ‘gamey’ taste like? What does that word even mean?” he persisted.

His brother gave him an authoritative answer, “‘Gamey’ means it tastes like bullets.”

Clearly our family has a somewhat tortured attitude toward meat. I’ve been a vegetarian for years, but the rest of my family eats meat. It’s led to some interesting situations…

Last summer I tried to pick up my daughter from Camp Barbara‘s after work one day. As I approached the door to our neighbor’s house, I detected the unmistakable smell of bacon. My daughter saw me coming through the glass of the storm door and her eyes widened in alarm. As I opened the door, she backed away, shook her head vigorously and practically shouted, “NO! You can’t take me home now…I’m about to eat bacon!”

Wild horses couldn’t have dragged that girl out of the house. And she wasn’t the only one. The three other little girls at Camp Barbara also had vegetarian mamas. One of them was Jewish to boot. They were all allowed to eat meat, but they had to get their fix outside of their own homes. Miss Barbara was their dealer.

Not long after, my kids and I were visiting my parents’ house. My mother watched suspiciously as they devoured the bulgogi (Korean beef barbecue) she had made for them. They were eating with a little too much enthusiasm. She swiveled her head until her narrowed eyes locked onto mine.

“You never give them meat, do you?!” she asked, as if she had just discovered that her daughter led a secret double life as a serial killer, “YOU can be a vegetarian if you want, but you better feed your children some meat!”

My mother’s words were ringing in my ear when I picked up some bacon at the grocery store last week. The kids were overjoyed when I told them they could have it this weekend, but then I noticed a cloud pass across their faces.

“Awww, poor Mommy! But what will YOU have for breakfast?”

“Oh, don’t worry about me! I’ll have something else!”

On Saturday I awoke to the aroma of bacon wafting up the stairs and all throughout the house. My 14 year old son poked his head into my room. He had a grin on his face, and said they had a surprise for me.

I came down to this:

Those sweet kids felt so sorry for me that I didn’t get to eat bacon that they made me this instead.

I don’t deserve them, but I’m sure glad they’re mine.


Tiger Pelt


I give it 5 stars! Two paws up!

Remember that amazing novel I was telling you about not too long ago? This is just a quick post to invite you to enter the Goodreads Giveaway for an advance reader copy of my sister’s award-winning novel Tiger Pelt.

Gripping, suspenseful, and unflinching, Tiger Pelt is a story of rebirth from the rubble of a savage time and a ravaged place: Korea during the Japanese occupation followed by the Korean War. A farm boy embarks on a quest that propels him on an odyssey spanning the Korean peninsula and crossing the Pacific. In a parallel life, a beautiful young girl is kidnapped and forced to work as a comfort woman for the Japanese military. During a raging monsoon, the two souls will collide in a near-death encounter that will alter the course of their lives. Tiger Pelt was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015.

Tiger Pelt will be available for purchase by the end of the year, but ten lucky winners will get a chance to read it before anyone else does! The giveaway ends in just a couple weeks, so enter now! Here’s the link:

Goodreads Giveaway


Good luck!

Hall Bank

My husband has been in England for the last couple of weeks. He’s helping his parents move from Hall Bank, the house they’ve lived in for almost forty years:

He never liked the house, mostly because he associated it with the painful move from his beloved Scotland. For our three children and me, however, it is a place we will always associate with some of our happiest memories.

We’ll remember celebrating birthdays there…

…and learning how to ride bikes in Granny and Granddad’s driveway on bikes specially bought for the kids’ summer visits:

We’ll never forget playing ping pong in the garden:

…often with our bare feet in the impossibly soft, cool carpet of grass.

It’s been a peaceful haven of rest:

unconditional love:

…and so much joy.


Mid-week Snaps

Pre-season training camp for soccer has started…After three hours of practice between the two of them, the kids go straight from the car to the backyard to practice some more.

IMG_0740IMG_0741Beta Bridge today…IMG_0743A brand new mural on the Corner, inspired by Rita Dove’s poem “Testimonial”:IMG_0745IMG_0747

We wandered around town for three hours this evening waiting for one kid or the other to be finished with soccer…In one of the two grocery stores we visited to kill time, we were in the checkout line when I heard my daughter ask, “Can we get this?” Without even looking, I reflexively said, “No” as I always do. But when I turned around and spotted what she had in her hand, I said: “I mean, YES!” They could have tasted like dirt, and we still would have had to buy these:IMG_0758And even though the only banana-flavored things I usually like are actual bananas, these tictacs are weirdly delicious!IMG_0760IMG_0755

I could make you happy…

This weekend was all about making other people’s dreams come true…

On Saturday bright and early, I went to the worst place in the world:

…the DMV.

And even though I was quivering with fear and anxiety, later that night I took that boy and his hot-off-the-printer learner’s permit to the elementary school parking lot just down the street from where we live to practice driving:

After our trip to Hell the DMV, we went to the Verizon store to replace my second son’s phone. A couple of years ago when I bought him his first phone, I had to interrupt the enthusiastic salesman’s pitch about the amazing features of the latest, greatest phone.

“Actually, I’d like your most basic phone,” I said, “It doesn’t have to do anything other than receive and make phone calls. What I’m looking for is the kind of phone that my kid might get made fun of at school for having.”

The salesman escorted me over to a dingy corner in the back of the store and placed one in my hand.

“Here you go. They don’t even make these any more. Your kid will definitely get made fun of for using this one.”

I’m not really sure what possessed me to replace this phone, which my son lost towards the end of the school year, with a much nicer phone, but I have to admit – the reaction was pretty gratifying:

And then there was this:

But the really nice, self-sacrificing thing I did for my daughter was to accede to her heartfelt plea to take her and her brothers to the Albemarle County Fair.

It started out so well, with this picturesque drive up to  Ashlawn Highland, James Monroe’s estate, in our air-conditioned car:

But the moment we stepped out of the car, a heatwave hit us like a wool blanket heavy with sweat.

We tried to distract ourselves by looking at the cute animals on display…

But even they looked miserable:

This smart cow had the right idea:

We had a greasy lunch of deep fried macaroni and cheese that looked like little triangle chicken nuggets, fries dripping with some Velveeta-esque product, deep fried pickles:

and some red velvet funnel cake:

To commemorate the occasion, I recorded a little song:

The dream is over…

My mother complained bitterly about being at the beach the LAST time we all converged upon Fenwick Island a couple years ago when my dad turned 80. We were surprised when she said she wanted to go again for her own 80th birthday. This time around my parents weren’t able to actually make it onto the beach, though one morning they managed to make it to the top of a sand dune so that they were able to take in the view of the ocean. They tried to pretend they weren’t having any fun at all…

But they couldn’t fool us…

It was impossible not to be happy with these two around…

Even when it rained, the cutest little mushroom popped up to make us smile.

I loved watching the cousins forge bonds with each other…

And I loved seeing the older cousins have the chance to be caregivers to the younger ones…

My daughter’s favorite part of the week was having a surprise family birthday party a few days before the actual day…

We were sad to leave the beach…

But we were glad to have just a little more time with my brother’s family…

The dream is over…

Until next time!