Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Look Bad, Taste Good!

Sadly, our delightful Korean neighbor, Ja-eun, sold her house to move to another state. She stayed with us for a week while she sorted through some boxes she'd stored in our front room. The house was quite busy with people coming and going as she distributed her goods. I mostly stayed out of the way.

One evening, Ja-eun called me into the foyer to introduce me to a couple, Youn and Myeong, and their 8-year-old son Seungmin. Seungmin was incredibly excited to meet Caleb (my medical alert dog) since Jindos are indigenous dogs from the Jindo Island off of South Korea. Ja-eun chatted with the family in Korean while I stood, smiling politely. Finally, she turned to me, laughing, and said, "Oh, boy like dog so much he want come every day play with him."

I chuckled, agreeably, "Oh, that's cute."

Ja-eun continued, "But I tell him 'No! Once a week only!Jay work Thursday? They come Thursday 5 o'clock."

Wait. What? She apparently told them the same thing in Korean, and they walked out the door. Well, okay then! 

I thought it was pretty funny until I realized that Ja-eun was leaving on Wednesday.

Me:  Um, Ja-eun, you’re leaving Wednesday. What am I supposed to do with them when they come on Thursday?

She:  Anything okay.

Me:  Do they even speak English? The only Korean words I know are “bulgogi” and “kimchi.”

She:  Is good! Need American friend so can learn English.

Me:  Okaaay. Um, will they be hungry? Am I supposed to serve them dinner? 

She:  Anything okay. 

Me:  What would I make? What do they like? What don’t they eat?

She: Anything okay. 
Well, okay then.  Ja-eun left Wednesday, and Thursday, at 5 PM sharp, Myeong (pronounced me-YOUNG—a great name because everyone confesses youth when they call her) showed up with little Seungmin (SING-men) in tow. He ran outside to play with Caleb while Myeong and I attempted conversation. She was shy with her English, so I just babbled nervously, hoping she understood some of it.

Jay was going through a stage where he wanted to learn how to cook, and he was in the kitchen making Stuffed Shells. The third time I heard him mutter (loud enough for me to hear in the den), "There's not enough stuff to stuff these shells with," I knew it was a cry for help. I excused myself and went to check on him. He already had one tray of shells stuffed and in the oven, but there was a pile of empty pasta shells next to a nearly empty bowl of stuffing. 
Puzzled, I looked over the recipe and remarked, "Odd. You'd think the 4 cups of ricotta cheese alone would be more than enough to stuff all the shells--even without adding the rest of the ingredients."

Jay responded, "Oooh, the ricotta..." Oops.

I opened the tub of ricotta cheese. Myeong wandered into the kitchen and wanted to taste it. Unsalted skim-milk ricotta is pretty flavorless, and her expression said that only her lovely Korean manners kept her from spitting it across the room.

I pulled the pan of shells out of the oven and scooped out the stuffing. The mozzarella topping was half melted and some of the tomato sauce from the bottom of the pan got mixed in, so after I added the un-stuffed-stuffing to the ricotta cheese, it looked like someone had thrown up in the bowl. Not pretty.  

Myeong took one look at the vile mixture and earnestly informed me, “We eat home.  We not eat here. No. Eat. Here.”  Korean food is supposed to look beautiful as well as taste good, so I understood her reaction.

“You don’t have to eat this,” I assured her as I re-stuffed shells. “You no eat--is okay. Jay and me eat. Food for Jay and me.” Although, the way it was looking, I wasn’t sure I wanted it either.

She responded with something indecipherable that I assumed was about dinner

But then she walked out the front door

And drove away

Well, okay then.  

I looked into the backyard. “Um, Jay, she left. And, um, her kid is still here.” 

“What!” Jay looked out the window, panicked.

“I have no idea what she said. Maybe I agreed to babysit or something."

We called Seungmin in.

Me (trying to sound casual to not cause alarm)H
oney, your mom just left. Do you know where she went?

He (entirely unconcerned):  No.

Me:  Do you know when she'll be back?

He:  No. 

Me:  Do you think she went to pick up your dad from work?

He:  Maybe.

Me:  Do you know where your dad works?

He:  No. 

Me:  Do you know where you live?

He:  No.

Me:  Do you know your mom’s cell phone number?


Me:  OK. Go play.

Seungmin skipped back outside while Jay paced the floor, fretting, “Did we just agree to adopt their kid? What do we do if she doesn’t come back? We don’t even know their last name!” 
I thought this was the most interesting thing to happen all week and cheerfully steamed broccoli and threw some garlic bread in the oven. After about 45 minutes, Seungmin and I were too hungry to wait any longer and dug in. Jay was too agitated to even take a bite, although the Stuffed Shells actually were quite tasty.

Myeong finally returned with Youn, much to Jay’s relief. He offered Myeong some Stuffed Shells, which she emphatically declined. Youn was exhausted from working a 12-hour day and starving. He looked askance at the pasta, but since Seungmin hadn't turned green or passed out, he allowed Jay to put some shells on his plate.

Youn put the first bite in his mouth and exclaimed, with undisguised shock, "Oooh, is good! Look very bad, but taste is good!"

After watching Seungmin and Youn eat with enthusiasm, Myeong finally cut one shell in half and placed the lonely half-bite in the middle of her plate. 

A dinner serving of Stuffed Shells, in Myeong's opinion

Bracing herself, she tried it. “Oooh, is good! Look very bad, but taste is good!”   

They asked for second and third helpings, repeating their favorite phrase (sounding utterly amazed) literally every few bites. Seungmin’s mouth was never empty enough to comment.

We'd baked sugar cookies from frozen dough during the meal. When we offered our guests the cooled sugar cookies, they kept saying, "Is not cook. Is not done," and we kept answering, "They're sugar cookies. They don't get brown. Is done."

Jay had run through a gamut of emotions in the past two hours, so he handed Youn a cookie and uncharacteristically commanded, "Eat!"

Dubiously, Youn took a bite and exclaimed, "Oooh, is cook. Look very bad, but is good!"

Shortly afterwards, they left. As they were going out the door, we heard, “Okay, see Thursday. Five o’clock!” Well, okay then. Ja-eun instructed us to meet once a week, and apparently that's what was going to happen.  

I decided to continue our trend of serving unsightly meals. We made casserole the next week, spaghetti with meat sauce the week after, and then pizza, and so on. You know exactly what they said after tasting each one!

Verse of the day: 
(Romans 12:13) "Share with the Lord's people who are in need. Practice hospitality." Some of us need more practice than others.


Follow up:  On their second visit, Seungmin shyly said that he didn't have any relatives in the USA and asked if he could call us Aunt Pamela and Uncle Jay. That warmed my heart, but I was completely hooked when he offered to give Caleb a bath. He's been our honorary nephew ever since. They've been coming to our house for seven years and counting, even though we haven't served a pretty meal yet!

For another Korean story, see "House Guest Hash (Not a Recipe)."

Jay (happy to discover a source of free labor),
Seungmin (too young to know that washing a dog is a chore), and
Caleb (miserably wondering what he did to deserve such punishment)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Finders Seekers

I adore my husband Jay. He's brave and strong. He works hard as a Captain of the Fire Department. He's loving and generous. He's kind to animals, children, and the elderly. But, like us all, the man does have limitations... 

In honor of Husband Appreciation Day, following is an edited version of an email correspondence from a few years ago between my sister, cousin (named changed), and me. True story.  

(To those who don't know Jay and are concerned about his sensitivity: he laughed and told me to post it. He knows he's not the only man who checks out when it comes to girl stuff.)   

Hi Vicky and Lora,

I’m recovering from yesterday. A strap on my highest heels broke as I stepped off the porch, and I bounced down the front steps. I can’t walk or use crutches since I hurt both legs.   

Today Jay made me go to the doctor for x-rays. There's a sprain in one foot and a hairline fracture in the other shin. I fought going to the doctor's because it’s so hard to get ready without the use of my legs. Jay tries to be helpful, but he’s too impatient with "girl stuff" to be much help. When I try to get up, he scolds me with, “Don’t get up! Just tell me what you need, and I’ll bring it to you.” He's sweet, but here's how it went:

"Jay, honey, my eyeliner isn't in my make-up bag; can you look in the middle drawer of the vanity cabinet for it? No, that's the middle drawer on the side--I meant the middle drawer of the whole cabinet. No, sweetie, not the other side, the long flat drawer in the middle. The pencil drawer. No, I don’t keep pencils in it; it’s just called a pencil drawer. The drawer directly above the chair. That's right. Now, I need the black eyeliner pencil. It's in there among the other make-up, but it should be right up front since I use it all the time. Just look. No, honey, that's lip liner, I need eyeliner. It looks kind of like that, but it's black on the outside. That's brown. That's green. That's lipstick. Honey, the entire thing is black. It looks like a #2 pencil that is completely black on the outside instead of yellow. No, that's a tube of lip-gloss, and it's pink. I said black. Are you even trying? Yes, it's there. I know it's there. I'm positive it's there. Can I crawl over there without you getting mad? Because I can find it easier than you can. Yes, I know you're perfectly capable of finding it, but I know what I'm looking for so it will be easier for me. (Pause, as he continues to dig through the drawer contents.) Honey, I really need to get ready. No, that's lip liner again. Red lip liner. Seriously, I'm coming over there. Oh, now you found it. (Cleansing sigh) Thank you for your help, honey…"

He was the same way with my clothes. "Jay, could you please get me the turquoise top with elbow length sleeves hanging on the left side of the closet? No, that's dark forest green. Turquoise is a bright aqua blue. No, that's navy blue. With red stripes. I want a solid turquoise top. No, that’s lime green. No, that's purple. With spaghetti straps. I said turquoise with sleeves. Yes, all my tops are right there. I know it’s there. That's the only place it could be. Relax--I'm not getting up; I’m just leaning over to look. Jay! I can see it from here! It’s right by your hand. That's pink. Next to the pink. Thanks for saying you're not trying to be difficult, but, honestly, you're not trying to be helpful when you pull out a pink top and I asked for turquoise. Yes, that's it! You found it!" (It was such an exciting moment!) "Thank you for bringing my turquoise top. I agree; it was pretty hard to miss..." yet somehow he did.   

Oh, how I want my legs back. Next time I'll go with whichever top he grabs. No, wait, then he'd have to find the bottoms to match! Either way I'm toast. 

Love you both,

Turquoise top? Must be in the other closet.

(Email response from my cousin)

You crack me up! That sounds EXACTLY like trying to get Charlie to bring me something. They do NOT want to find it so they can prove to you that next time you should just get it yourself. He always asks me to find something for him that’s practically glued to his nose! I come over and say, “It is right here, in front of you!” That is scary funny! Next time have Jay bring the whole drawer to you. Then you can find it. You have to think in terms of large items, not small. Here are some examples:
Honey, I want a drink. Can you bring me the fridge, please?
Honey, there is something I need in the car, so can you drive it in, pretty please?
I am expecting an important letter. Can you dig up the mailbox and bring it to me?
I need something from the dresser upstairs. Can you carry the dresser down to me, please?
You get the idea.

(Email response from my sister) 
Pamela--Yeah, I agree with Vicky--make Jay bring you the whole drawer or whole dresser. That… or phrase things in firefighter language… something like… “A massive fire was lit by the black eyeliner pencil in the middle drawer. Please extract the object for evidence.” 


Hi Girls,

Hee hee! You two are too funny. Of course, he could get around those suggestions, too. It would probably go like this:

Me:  Honey, forget trying to find my black eyeliner. Just bring me the whole cabinet.
He:  Which cabinet?
Me:  The one right there in the vanity area.
He:  Which room is the vanity area in?
Me:  This one. The vanity area connects our bedroom with our bathroom. Right where you’re standing.
He:  Oh. I never heard you call it the vanity area before. 
Me:  Doesn’t matter. Just bring the cabinet.
He:  Which cabinet do you want?
Me:  The one you were just rummaging through. 
He:  I'm just saying, there's also a medicine cabinet on the wall.
Me:  The base cabinet, honey, the one with the drawers in it.
He:  I don't see it.
Me:  What do you mean you don't see it? It's right there!
He:  You mean this?
Me:  Yes!
He:  Well, I didn't know what cabinet you meant since this cabinet has a door on one side, too, not just drawers.
Me:  My mistake. Yes, that's the cabinet I want, with the drawers and a door. Please bring it.
He:  Do you want the baseboard, too?
Me:  Sure. Whatever. 
He:  I'm just saying, the baseboard is attached to the cabinet.
Me:  OK, bring the baseboard, too.
He:  I could take the baseboard off, but it would take longer.
Me:  No, no. Just bring it along. (Long pause) Now what are you waiting for?
He:  I'm trying to figure out how to get the cabinet out from under the counter top.
Me:  Then bring the counter top, too!
He:  I'm just saying, you only asked for the cabinet, and when you buy a cabinet at Home Depot, it comes without the counter top.
Me:  Bring the whole thing. (Pause) Now what?
He:  I painted the cabinet the same time as the wall.
Me:  So?
He:  I painted the cabinet the same time I painted the wall.
Me:  So?
He:  I primed them both at the same time.
Me:  So?
He:  Well, some paint might come off the wall since the primer might be connected underneath the paint.
Me:  So?
He:  Well, I'm just saying, you didn't ask for the cabinet with some of the wall primer attached.
Me:  I don't care.
He:  I could get a scraper to separate the primer.
Me:  Forget it. I don't care if there is primer attached.
He:  But I'm not sure where the scraper is.
Me:  It doesn't matter where the scraper is because I want you to bring the cabinet to me with the counter top and all the wall paint and primer attached, if need be.
He:  Do you still want the baseboard?
Me:  Aaaugh! I changed my mind. Forget bringing the cabinet and anything attached to it. “A massive fire was lit by the black eyeliner pencil that's in the top drawer on the left side of the vanity cabinet.  Please extract the evidence.”
He:  Where was the fire?
Me:  An old warehouse somewhere.
He:  How do they know it was lit by the black eyeliner pencil?
Me:  Anonymous tip or something. All you need to know is that the Chief wants you to bring him the black eyeliner pencil.
He:  I'm just saying, it's a strange way to light a fire.
Me:  Forget it! I'll get the eyeliner myself.
He:  Sweetie, don't get up! Just tell me what you need, and I'll get it for you.

Love you both,


Verse of the day:  (Jeremiah 29:13) “When you seek Me, you will find Me if you seek me with all your heart." Your heart has to be involved in the seeking to be successful in the finding.

To read why I've finally concluded that we're actually filming a sitcom, click here for "She Said, He Heard."

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

My Native American name is "Mighty Rodent Hunter"

This story about Louie Belle (our cat) is in honor of "International Louie Louie Day." (Yes, that's a real holiday. I know, I'd never heard of it either.)

It's natural to enjoy giving gifts to those whom we love. However, it's best to give them gifts they'd prefer to receive. A gift they do not like, even if you believe it is good for them, is usually not a welcomed gift.

Case in point:  Our cat, Louie Belle, thought I'd benefit from the gift of exercise. She decided to bring live critters through her cat door and set them free in the house to give me the dubious thrill of catching them to put them back outside. She only does this when my husband Jay is working a 24-hour shift at the fire station because this precious gift (eye roll) is for me alone.

One night, I was in bed watching TV when I thought I saw something skim past the door. When it ran by again, I leaped after it, yelling for Caleb to join me. Jindo dogs are small-game hunters, so I assumed he'd be eager to help. Instead, he opened one eye and then went back to his nap. Of course.
"You can handle it; I have faith in you, Mom."
The invader was a rotund, brown rodent about 5-6" long and nearly as wide. It had a stocky body and a short, stubby tailKind of like an over-stuffed Twinkie with little feet. A type of marmot or an overfed lemming, perhaps. Its face was round with cheeks as chubby as mine when I was a small child.

My pretty sister on the left
Me, bearing an uncanny resemblance to the chubby rodent (minus fur and tail), on the right
I scrambled into the den after Mr. Chubby just in time to see him duck behind our  ridiculously heavy couch. With Louie Belle watching, I huffed, and I puffed, and I blew it down. I mean, I finally lifted it. Chubby was no longer there. Louie crawled under to sniff where he had been, and then she, inexplicably, sat down to await his return. Arms trembling from exertion, I grabbed her tail and hauled her out with one hand before I dropped the couch with the other. Although I rescued her from being flattened like a feline pancake, she stalked away, clearly offended. Of course.

I scoured the den for Chubby. Rifling through the toy bin (yes, our pets have their own toy bin), I hit one of Caleb's nubby, stuffed animals--the one with a recording device inside. I'd taped a message for Caleb to listen to while we were away one weekend, and when I jostled the toy, my recorded voice blurted out, "Oh, you're my sweet Shmoopy Shmoo, I love you soooooo much..." When he heard that, Caleb ran in, wagging his tail in (what he assumed was) equal adoration. I glared at him for ignoring me earlier while my life was in imminent danger (don't judge me--it could have been a ninja-trained rodent, for all you know), so he walked off, puzzled, as I continued my frantic search.

Minutes later, I was thrilled to discover Chubby cornered in the living room by Caleb and Louie Belle. When they saw me, they politely backed away to let their Alpha (me, apparently) take over the hunt. Which gave Chubby time to toddle behind a bookcase.  Of course. 

Caleb and Louie sat, watching me with undisguised interest in how I would proceed. They cocked their heads in simultaneous curiosity when I moaned in frustration, "Why did you let him go? What kind of hunters are you?"
Caleb and Louie Belle, a duel embarrassment to small-game hunters everywhere
Moving the bookcase was not an option, so I banged on it for a bit.  Nothing happened. So, I shook it. Which made a hefty silk plant fall from the top of it and bounce off of my head. Of course.  

Louie and Caleb bolted in panic, so I spent the next five minutes rubbing my scalp and begging my "loyal" companions to return. They were deaf to my pleas, but Chubby grew so tired of my voice that he tried to sneak out of the room. I spotted him as he neared Caleb, who'd taken refuge in the foyer from the scary, "flying" plant. Did Caleb catch the rodent approaching his slavering, canine jaws? Nope. He placidly watched (of course) as I chased Chubby past him, shrieking, "Catch him, you stupid dog! Catch him!"

I pursued the Chubby's ample behind down the hall, into the bathroom, and trapped him behind the toilet. Caleb ambled in after me, so I sternly told him to stay, hoping his presence would discourage Chubby from trying to escape under the bathroom door. I found Louie Belle hiding under the bed from the "flying" plant, dragged her out, and shut her into the bathroom, too. I had to poke Chubby before she even figured out he was there. I can’t understand how she caught him in the first place. I think she was dozing the grass with her mouth open, and he accidentally crawled in.

I found an empty shoebox and ran back. When I opened the bathroom door, my guard animals were staring at the door with their backs to their quarry. Of course. Thank God (and I did), Chubby was still there. He was exhausted (he needs to lose weight if he's going to run indoor marathons) and napping by the bathtub. I was so spent that I wanted to join him, but, instead, I prodded him into the box, carried him outside, and set him free on the front porch. He waddled away and did a belly flop off the top step. "Eat a salad," were my parting words. 

I couldn't believe Caleb and Louie's apathy towards live prey. What did I have to do to get their interest? Put ketchup on him? He was cute, so I'm glad they didn't kill him, but was it unreasonable expect predators to catch him? He ran like a walrus, so how hard could it be? 

My lame attempts to capture Mr. Chubby convinced Louie Belle that I desperately needed more practice hunting, and her gifts of live prey continue.  

Someone needs to tell her that I prefer chocolate.  
Verse of the day:  (Romans 6:23) "The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Now that is one gift worth keeping.

For another story about how my pets torment me, click here. 
To read how I found the perfect gift for Jay (in my estimable opinion), click here.