Friday, August 30, 2013

Confessions of a K-drama addict

I really have the Deputy Headmistress to blame thank for introducing me to Korean drama.  She started blogging about it last year and after a while I started reading her posts, and then her description of one show, Stars Falling from the Sky, caught my attention (it was her mention of a family with five super-cute adopted children in the family) and I decided to watch it.

Eldest Daughter caught me watching it and scolded me horribly, because she'd tried before to get me to watch some K-drama with her and I wasn't interested.  I don't even remember her asking me about it.  After the conversation, I vaguely remembered knowing that she'd watched some Korean shows (along with Japanese ones), and I knew she liked Korean pop music (along with Japanese), but honestly.  I'm sure my take on it at the time was, "That's nice, dear."  My only excuse is that a positive review by one of my peers carried more influence than a positive review by my own offspring.  I have since learned that my daughter was raised well enough that I can trust her taste, not only in books, but also in entertainment.  Go figure.

I've watched a little over two dozen of them, which is an embarrassing thing to say, because these shows tend to run sixteen to twenty one-hour episodes (and I've watched some of them more than once).  But last winter I was sick in bed for several days and watched several hours during that time.  Also I've been devouring K-drama instead of books.  But in my defense I'll say that their stories are so well-told and complex that you're not going to have your brains melt by watching them, unlike with most American television shows.  Really.  The plots are positively Dickensian.

So, what do I love about K-drama?

First, how important family is.  This was the reason I watched the first drama.  In that show, the parents die in a car accident and the oldest daughter, who is twenty-five and amazingly irresponsible, has to grow up fast so she can take care of her five adopted siblings.  On one occasion the oldest boy scolds her for her bad behavior and she listens to him and promises to do better, and she really does.  That may sound disrespectful of an older relative, but he is the oldest boy after all, which carries a lot of responsibility, so even though he's only twelve years old, he's the man of the family.

Second, how shy they are about physical contact between the sexes.  This makes the love stories very sweet, for the most part, and so much more romantic than shows that convey the couple's feeling for each other by, well, physical contact.  I'll just point out here that even though these shows are very clean by American standards, I don't let my younger children watch many of them, because romance is such a big part of the stories and I don't want them feeding very much on that fare.

Then there's the music.  Faith, aka The Great Doctor has gorgeous music, some of it classical-style soundtrack stuff like you'd expect, but also a lot of music by pop stars, which I didn't expect in a drama set in the 1300s.  The first time this particular bit was played during the first episode, Number One Son came out of his room to listen and was hooked on the drama ever after.

I'm testing a hypothesis of mine -- if I love the music, I'm going to love the show.  If the music is bad, or forgettable, the show will be too.

I also love listening to the language.  Korean is structured so very differently than English, and that difference fascinates me.  Where we would say, "I'm sorry for being rude," or "Thank you for giving me a ride," in Korean it's something like "For being rude, I'm sorry," or "For giving me a ride, I thank you."  That's not a literal translation because I don't speak Korean -- it's just what I've noticed from picking up a few words here and there.  I love listening for the ways people address each other, the honorifics and endearments, the way old people are all called grandfather or grandmother, even by strangers.  I love the fact that they have informal or comfortable speech for family and close friends and formal speech for everyone else.  I love listening for when two characters transition from formal to informal words because of what it means in their relationship.  It kills me that I don't know Korean.  In some of these shows I love the characters so much and want to know their language so I can know them better.

This is closely related to loving the language difference -- I love seeing the world through a different culture's eyes, seeing what they value and how they go about solving their problems.

A big attraction for me is how they create their characters and tell their stories.  For example, in American movies and TV shows, generally the characters are non-religious and they live in a world where religion doesn't exist, unless it's necessary to the plot.  But in Korean dramas, characters are Christian or Buddhist or non-religious in the same way that people are in real life -- it's a part of their being and doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the plot.  It's just the way people are.  Characters are generally well-rounded with strengths and weaknesses that tend to go hand-in-hand in real life.  There are exceptions to this, of course, notably the cartoon villain who is evil just because he loves being evil.  There are also stock characters who aren't realistic at all -- the evil girl who does everything in her power to break up the main couple just because... well, the plot needs some conflict, right?  Preferably several layers of conflict.  The evil mom or mother-in-law is another common one.  But the main characters are usually believable individuals.

There's more, but I'll stop here since this is getting pretty long.  This was just meant as fair warning:  I'm going to be blogging about some of the shows I've watched.

Currently, my two oldest girls and I are watching one called Master's Sun.  Today episode 8 was aired and I'm liking this show more and more as it goes on.  It's about a girl who had some unspecified accident a few years earlier and has been able to see ghosts ever since.  Of course, since she can see them they harass her, wanting her to give messages to loved ones, or buy coffee for them to drink, or various other things, and some of them are really scary.  She's exhausted because she can hardly sleep at night and then one night, running away from a scary ghost, she bumps into a man and the ghost vanishes.  She's so excited to have a refuge and wants to hang around him all the time just to keep the ghosts at bay, but of course the man doesn't want a weird girl hanging onto him.  Until he discovers that someone who can see ghosts can be very useful.  And then he falls for her.  It so cute, and creepy in a campy way.  The title sequence conveys the feeling of the show perfectly.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wednesday with Words: More from Wodehouse's Love Among the Chickens

Garnet entered the compartment, and stood at the door, looking out in order, after the friendly manner of the traveling Briton, to thwart an invasion of fellow-travelers.


There are few things more restful than to watch some one else busy under a warm sun.


It was only when I heard him call out to Hawk to be careful, when a movement on the part of that oarsman set the boat rocking, that I began to weave romances round him in which I myself figured.

But, once started, I progressed rapidly. I imagined a sudden upset. Professor struggling in water. Myself (heroically): “Courage! I’m coming!” A few rapid strokes. Saved! Sequel: A subdued professor, dripping salt water and tears of gratitude, urging me to become his son-in-law. That sort of thing happened in fiction. It was a shame that it should not happen in real life. In my hot youth I once had seven stories in seven weekly penny papers in the same month all dealing with a situation of the kind. Only the details differed. In “Not Really a Coward,” Vincent Devereux had rescued the earl’s daughter from a fire, whereas in “Hilda’s Hero” it was the peppery old father whom Tom Slingsby saved, singularly enough, from drowning. In other words, I, a very mediocre scribbler, had effected seven times in a single month what the powers of the universe could not manage once, even on the smallest scale.

I was a little annoyed with the powers of the universe.


The professor was in the best of tempers, and I worked strenuously to keep him so. My scheme had been so successful that its iniquity did not worry me. I have noticed that this is usually the case in matters of its kind. It is the bungled crime that brings remorse.


I went into the garden. She was sitting under the cedar by the tennis lawn, reading. She looked up as I approached.

To walk any distance under observation is one of the most trying things I know. I advanced in bad order, hoping that my hands did not really look as big as they felt. The same remark applied to my feet. In emergencies of this kind a diffident man could very well dispense with extremities. I should have liked to be wheeled up in a bath chair.


I felt, like the man in the fable, as if some one had played a mean trick on me, and substituted for my brain a side order of cauliflower.


I often make Bob [the dog] the recipient of my confidences. He listens appreciatively and never interrupts. And he never has grievances of his own. If there is one person I dislike, it is the man who tries to air his grievances when I wish to air mine. 


But, I reflected, I ought not to be surprised. His whole career, as long as I had known him, had been dotted with little eccentricities of a type which an unfeeling world generally stigmatizes as shady. They were small things, it was true; but they ought to have warned me. We are most of us wise after the event. When the wind has blown we generally discover a multitude of straws which should have shown us which way it was blowing.


“Now this,” I said to myself, “is rather interesting. Here in this one farm we have the only three known methods of dealing with duns. Beale is evidently an exponent of the violent method. Ukridge is an apostle of evasion. I shall try conciliation. I wonder which of us will be the most successful.”

Meanwhile, not to spoil Beale’s efforts by allowing him too little scope for experiment, I refrained from making my presence known, and continued to stand by the gate, an interested spectator.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Recipe: Buttermilk Cornbread

1 stick butter*
2 cups self-rising cornmeal mix**
2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs

This looks deceptively simple, but like all good Southern cooking it absolutely depends on having the right tools and using the right technique.  I'm not even sure it can be made well just from reading a recipe -- it's probably one of those things you have to see done at least once, and try yourself several times, tweaking things until it comes out just right.

First, put the stick of butter in an 8" iron skillet, put into the oven, and turn on to 425°.

Next, using a one-cup scoop*** put two scoops of cornmeal mix into a large mixing bowl and make a well in the center.

Then, pour two cups of buttermilk into a glass four-cup measure or small mixing bowl.  Crack the two eggs into the buttermilk and beat well with a wire whisk or a fork.

Add the liquid to the dry, pouring it into the well, and stir a little, just until moistened.  There will still be lumps and that's okay -- just don't overmix it.  Let it rest while the oven finishes preheating.

When the oven's hot and the butter is just starting to turn brown, pour the batter into the middle of the skillet all at once, and put it back in the oven.  Cook until it's golden brown on top and crispy around the edges, oh, twenty or thirty minutes.

If your skillet is well seasoned, you can invert it over a plate when it's done and the cornbread will fall right out.

Cut into wedges and serve with  more butter and honey if it's for dessert, or butter and cheese (or just butter) if it's for supper.  Or crumble it up and sprinkle over chili or soup, or crumble it into a goblet, pour buttermilk over it and eat it with a spoon.  The latter was my daddy's favorite dessert.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

* It really has to be real butter, and yes, a whole stick of it.

** I like Aunt Jemima and White Lily the best.  I only use white cornmeal, and I think the buttermilk mix turns out better than the plain one.  Where I live right now, I can only find one-pound bags of mix, so I usually make my own.  Here's how:  1 cup of white cornmeal, 1 cup of plain, unbleached flour, 4 teaspoons baking powder, and 3/4 teaspoon of salt.  I mix up several cups of it at a time -- enough to fill a large Rubbermaid canister about 3/4 of the way to the top, so that there's some room at the top to make scooping it out easier.

*** On using a measuring scoop:  With a dry-measure cup, you fill it lightly with flour, tap the side to make the flour settle, then scrape off the top with the back side of a knife.  This gives you exactly one cup.  To use a scoop, you dig into the mix a time or two to fluff it up a little, then you dig in and bring up a fill, overflowing scoop of the mix.  Shake the scoop a little so that the excess falls off, but it should still be mounded above the top of the scoop -- just not so high that it's going to spill while transferring it to the mixing bowl.  I have no idea what the exact measure is.  I just know that once you've got the technique down, it's a lot easier than using a cup.

As it turns out, this wasn't quite full enough and I had to add a smidgen more when mixing the batter.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

This Is Just to Say

[with apologies to Mr Williams]

I have eaten
the chocolates
that were in
your drawer

and which
you were probably
for Sunday treat

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so nutty

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wednesday with Words: A Commonplace Book

A commonplace book is the author's rag bag. In it he places all the insane ideas that come to him, in the groundless hope that some day he will be able to convert them with magic touch into marketable plots.
~ P.G. Wodehouse, Love Among the Chickens

Monday, August 19, 2013

Our Book of Centuries

Actually, we have four of them, one for each of the four younger kids.  I've had a couple of wall timelines over the years, but they never lasted long, the first because we moved and it just never got put back up again, and the second because the pictures kept falling off the wall.  I wanted to do a timeline book, but you know how they say that the perfect is often the enemy of the good?  It's true.  I couldn't figure out how to make one that would be absolutely perfect, so I put it off for years.

Finally, I just decided the heck with it.  All I need is a notebook they can glue pictures in.  So I bought four 1 1/2" 3-ring binders, the heavy-duty kind with D-rings because I like the way the pages lay, and a package of 8 1/2 by 11 cardstock.  Just before I started punching holes in the paper, I decided it would be nice to have lines on one side of the two-page spread, so we could write things in chronological order, so I ran the sheets through my printer, copying a sheet of notebook paper onto one side of each.

Note that "A.D." is in its proper place BEFORE the year.
You can just barely see the lines on the left page, but they show up well enough in real life to serve my purpose.

For each two-page spread I labeled the top and bottom outside corners of the left page with the first and last years of the century.  As you can see, this is the page where we write down the person or event, along with the correct date.  Generally, we have people listed by year of death.  On the right hand page the pictures are placed higher or lower depending on where they belong in the century, but it's pretty subjective.  The header names the century, and the number in the top right corner is just to make it easier to flip through the book when looking for a particular century.  That note is present on all the pages, even where we haven't added any information yet.  We fill in the other stuff as it comes up.

The early part of the book, up to 1500 B.C., has five centuries per two-page spread, but I think I could have gotten away with a millennium each, because there's not much of anything recorded before then.  The earliest date we have recorded is 4004 B.C., which is the date of creation according to Bishop Ussher, but there's a note that current creationists date it at c. 5000 B.C.  We don't get into the whole old earth/young earth debate until the kids are a lot older.

We've been using these for about three years, and the pages are still pretty sparsely populated.  Ideally, we'd add figures once a week or so, whenever a noteworthy person or event comes up in our reading, but we really only do it once a month or less.  Still, this is better than what I was doing before.

Here we are late Saturday afternoon, adding figures of Mozart, whom we studied last school year, Homer, the Trojan Horse, George Washington (whom we studied ages ago), Hannibal crossing the Alps (we're reading about Fabius, the Roman dictator who fought him, in Plutarch's Lives, but this was a funner picture), and Tennyson (our current poet).

Mike is not doing timeline stuff.  He's doing Computer God stuff.

The advantage to adding figures months or even years after studying them is that the kids can tell you what they remember while we're doing it, so it all works out in the end -- even if it's not perfect.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

I'll Take the High Road Commission

~Ogden Nash, 1902-1971

    In between the route marks
    And the shaving rhymes,
    Black and yellow markers
    Comment on the times.
    All along the highway
    Hear the signs discourse:


    Cryptic crossroads preachers
    Proffer good advice

    Helping wary drivers
    Keep out of Paradise.

    Transcontinental sermons,
    Transcendental talk:


    Wisest of their proverbs,
    Truest of their talk,
    Have I found that dictum:


    When Adam took the highway
    He left his sons a guide:


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Back to school

This is my first post of 2013 and the post that will knock my last back-to-school post off the front page!

We've had an unusually long summer break. The kids visited their grandmother in Arkansas for a month, I went to CiRCE's conference in Baltimore, and accompanied my husband (just the two of us, alone for several days -- first time in nearly twenty years) to his 30 year high school reunion in Florida.  I also got to visit an out-of-state friend I haven't seen in more than a year, and another out-of-state friend I haven't seen in eighteen years.  This is the first summer we've ever had where I really felt like I had a vacation -- not just a break from school work.

We were all eager to start back, but I usually ease back into the routine with a half-day schedule for the first week, so as not to shock the system. My system, that is. So this week we've been having our Morning Time, which takes about an hour and a half. Here's the MT routine:

Prayers and Bible
We use the "Daily Devotions for Individuals and Families" from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, which I blogged about here. Most years we get our Bible readings from the Lectionary, which gives us a Psalm, and an Old Testament and a New Testament reading, but this year I decided to read straight through a few books. We're currently reading the Gospel of Luke, generally reading from one paragraph mark [¶] to the next. The Prayer Book has all of the Psalms, marked so that they can be read responsively by the half-verse, but it's a modern translation and we always used the King James Version for our memory work and the kids were wanting to read that version, so we're reading straight from our Bibles.

Currently reading a collection of Tennyson's poetry which I bought from Eighth Day Books at the conference. I've read his Idylls of the King and a few of his shorter works, but this book contains several I'd never read before. The first poem in the book is "The Mermaid," which starts off sweet and light and takes a dark turn at the last, which I didn't see coming. One of the main benefits I get in reading poetry aloud is that it forces me to slow down and really notice what's happening. If you're reading in your head you might not notice that the poet has changed from words that are quick and light to slow, heavy words. When you're reading aloud, those words take longer to pronounce so you're forced to slow down -- you can feel the change in tone. (And of course, reading poetry aloud and discussing it with your kids is good for them, too. Have I mentioned before that I'm getting an education by home schooling my kids?)

The last biography we read was Pericles; this time we're reading Fabius.  I use Anne White's study guides found at Ambleside Online.  This year I'm reading from Plutarch every day instead of once a week.  We have so many unexpected interruptions that it usually takes me a year to read one life, instead of the expected twelve weeks... which is dumb, but there it is.

Something new this year.  I've had these books for years and have used them as an afternoon read-aloud at least once in the past, but it was before my younger children came along.  I'd recommend you get this version if at all possible -- Rosemary Sutcliff's retelling is beautiful and of course Alan Lee's illustrations are gorgeous.  We're reading a chapter a day and I pause occasionally to let one of the children narrate.  After reading our chapter we talk about whatever interested us in the day's reading.

This retelling of the Trojan War begins with the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, who become the parents of Achilles, and tells how the angry, uninvited Goddess of Discord showed up and spoiled the festivities, so the story is told in chronological order.  Today I finally got to the part nine years into the war where Achilles is sitting on the beach raging about Agamemnon's bad treatment of him, so after our reading and discussion I took out the grown up version translated by WHD Rouse, and read the first page.  It begins, "An angry man -- there is my story:  the bitter rancor of Achilles, prince of the house of Peleus, which brought a thousand troubles upon the Achaian host.  Many a strong soul it sent down to Hades, and left the heroes themselves a prey to dogs and carrion birds, while the will of God moved on to fulfillment."

They thought it was exciting to start in the middle of the story and wanted me to read more, but it was time to send them...

This has always been a vital part of my children's upbringing, just playing or loafing.  Of course, they have chores now, but this outside time is meant to be leisure time.  When we're doing a full day of school work, I try to give them at least half an hour during this break before calling them in for lunch and their individual studies.

That's it.

Like I said, everything up to the outside time takes about an hour and a half, not because the readings take that long, but because we meander and talk so much.

Things to be added next week
Morning Time is also when we do our memory work, going over what we're currently memorizing and reviewing what we've already accomplished. That usually takes five or ten minutes.

MT is also when we listen to particular pieces for our Composer Study and Artist Study.  In previous years I've done Prayers, Poetry, and Memory every day, and have had Plutarch, Literature, Music, and Art on separate days.  As I said, I'm planning on doing Plutarch and Literature daily this year, and I'm also doing something different for Music and Art.  I've subscribed to Professor Carol's Circle of Scholars so that we can take her Discovering Music course, which "takes you through the history of music, the arts, and Western Culture from 1600 to 1914."  I'll probably need to drop Plutarch and Homer on the day we're doing Discovering Music.  We'll see.

And of course there's all the individual work that the children do, but that's another post for another day.  Or year. ;-)