Little kitchen helpers: rice

Living in South Korea we eat a lot of rice. In fact, my kids have phases where just about all they seem to want to eat is rice and κΉ€ (gim – Korean dried seaweed, very similar to nori) – breakfast, lunch, dinner.

They also both love to help preparing it for cooking. Elly will often find the rice cooker and ask to ‘cooh-cooh’ (cook cook), even when he has just eaten, or there is rice waiting for him on the table.

First they help to measure cups of rice into the rice pan. I normally scoop it out of the sack and let them tip and count it in as letting them try to scoop normally results in a) rice everywhere and b) an completely unknown quantity of rice in the rice pan.


Then they help me wash the rice. Zeph likes to turn the tap on and off to cover the rice. But the favourite bit for both of them is definitely getting to put their hands in the water and play with it. Or eat it, if your name is Elly. We often use this opportunity to talk about ‘transparent/see through’ and ‘opaque/cloudy’ as we watch the starch wash out and change the water. Next it’s back to counting cups – as we add water this time.


Last but not least one of them takes a turn to flick on the switch on the rice cooker. Or we turn it on and off a few times so they both get to do it.

One last winter post…

After all, it is still February. And that means winter, right?

Ok. I am definitely much too late with this. I should have written about it last month but this that and the other and I didn’t. And I really want to because we had the best day trip. So.

Mid-January the boys and I went to Hwasun for snow tubing and swimming with a group of Korean friends (4 mums and 6 kids plus us). Now, that sounds fun any day to me… but I was apprehensive about how Zeph would find it. In some ways he’s so brave, and in others so cautious. Espescially with new experiences. And espescially recently. I expected him to really enjoy going on an adventure with his friends and to love the activities, if he was willing to try them.

If he was willing to try them.

If he was willing to try them.

This thought echoed through the few days between confirming the trip and going. Echoed through my preparations for going the night before. Echoed through the car journey there. Because if he refused to even try, which was quite possible it seemed to me, then he’d probably be miserable. And I would probably be miserable at spending a whole day out doing nothing. And Elly would probably be miserable at spending a whole day out doing nothing too.

And then one of the mums, who also has and brought a toddler, reminded me about naps. Inward groan. How to make sure Elly gets a decent nap and doesn’t get too grumpy….

So we got to the snow tubing. It was cold but someone had brought heat packs. Zeph wouldn’t wear one… not the best start to trying new things. We lined up for the tube-lift. Zeph went before me, sat in, got hooked up… and up he went. He looked like he wanted to try and climb right out again, but it was moving, and from next on the line I was shouting up to him, It’s ok. Stay sitting down! Then we were at the top. So far so good. Except now we watched the row in front go down first, and Zeph did not want to do that. Persuasion? Not working. Going together? Not possible with Elly needing to ride in my lap already. What about holding hands?img_2018-04-15_15-10-01752390568.jpg
And he agreed.

He was nervous. He thought about backing out, especially when I had to hold his tube handle not his hand. But he agreed. And he did it. And then we did it again. And by the end of it, after I had to give up and wrap Elly to let him sleep because he’d been howling in the last two lines (not the ride… that bit he actually seemed to enjoy), he went with just his friend and another mum.

And I was SO proud of him.

Next up: aqua park. Zeph saw his friends jump in with their rubber rings, and in he went after them. He preferred me to stay close and hold his ring where the water was deep, but in the shallow play pool he was off. There were bubbles pools, water umbrellas, slides, water walking balls (which we didn’t try), a stepping bridge thing to try climbing across…. Elly was also in his element. He’s such a water baby!img_2018-04-15_15-06-021625829586.jpgI am proud of my kids always, but I was especially proud of Zeph that day: he was super brave trying two new things and on top of that the other mums twice remarked what a gentleman he is when he held the lift door open to make sure everyone was safe, and when he wanted to pour everyone drinks at dinner.


Thoughts about a very slow winter

Winter was especially slow for us. We lived in our pjs at least half the time. With the cold, small children and rounds of sickness that seemed to keep hitting us each in turn, one after the other, we spent a lot of time at home.

We enjoyed our bit of snow of course.

And we haven’t been entirely secluded, but we haven’t been out so much, haven’t seen friends as much. I haven’t been baby-wearing Elly so much as we haven’t been walking long distances so often. We have woken up late with no hurry to go anywhere so we have read all the books between breakfast and brushing our teeth instead of just one or two. We have made tents under the blankets and sheets and read more books and imagined wild adventures. We have sung songs and learned sign words. We have cooked and baked and made and created.

On one hand I have felt very lazy, but that’s kind of what winter is about isn’t it?


Real rest. Stillness that comes from rest. Being, rather than the need to do or become.

So I’ll take our slow winter. But now we are ready for spring. Slow too, I expect, but maybe not quite so much. Maybe we can even get ourselves together and ready to leave the house before midday on occasion.

Suncheon Expo Garden

We spent a lot of Spring and Autumn days happily wandering around Suncheon Garden last year and Zeph has been asking all winter about when we will go again. So today, along with a group of friends, was our first visit of the year. I’m not sure I would have braved the weather quite so soon if it hadn’t been suggested to us, but actually it was a great day!

We had gimbap picnic lunch and then took the Skycube monorail to Suncheon Bay Wetland Reserve. It takes 10-15 minutes each way and is one of Zeph’s favourite things to do. At the Suncheon Bay end there’s a small traditional-style rest area with traditional Korean games available to play: Juldarigi (tug-of-war), bowl-a-hoop, Tuho (throwing sticks) and Jegichagi (like Hacky Sack).

Zeph of course headed straight to play in the gravel but did get round to trying some other things too. He found the hoops pretty frustrating at first and didn’t want to try anymore after the first go, but after a while he came back to it and developed his own special trick of rolling it and then catching it again on the stick. Elly was super quiet all day – he barely said a thing or made any noise at all – but he had lots of fun too, especially getting an ice-cream to himself because Zeph insisted they have one each instead of share.

There’s actually a lot more in the Expo Garden that we didn’t get around to today, but some of our friends had other stuff on and after all, as a first Spring trip out after a lazy mostly-at-home winter, it was probably enough for all of us. Elly was falling asleep even as I wrapped him in the baby wrap on the Skycube back, and Zeph was tired enough to ask to go home rather than play in the park with the friends who were still available. AND!!! Wonder of wonders, after almost a week of haywire, frustrating bedtimes with both of them being crazy and sleeping much too late, they are both now alseep!

Tonight I’m a happy Mummy.


Feels like Spring in South Korea

The warmer weather seems to be coming! Sort of anyway. So what better activity than gardening! I wish wish wish we actually had a garden, of the outside space variety, but failing that we have a few pots that we make an attempt with.

Two years ago Zeph and I had some lovely tomato plants and some lettuce (How to get Zeph to eat lettuce? Grow it ourselves!) But with Elly’s arrival I didn’t manage to keep it up and our (reduced number of) pots have been sitting waiting to be used again.

Today we planted some flowers and lettuce seeds and we’ll see what comes of it.

Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were Rabbit

Zeph watched this the other day. Actually, he watched it across two days as he gets a limited amount of screen time per day.

Today he was asking me about the names of the man and the dog who caught rabbits in the thing he watched. Then he announced that he was Gromit and Elly and I were rabbits.

He made a long carrot out of duplo squares and used his doctor’s scalpel to cut it up. Meanwhile Elly and I had to go in the hutch (under the table, with the chair laid down on it’s back so that the seat made a door). And stay there.

Zeph proceeded to put all his carrot slices on a chopping (duplo) board, and scrape them into the hutch for us to eat.

Then he told me, ‘What a mess you’ve made Mummy Rabbit!’

Swamp small world

Up until now, I’ve done a lot of messy, sensory activities with my kids, many of which would at some point involve my oldest asking for his cars (if he didn’t already have them), and using them with any material to make little role plays and stories. What we haven’t done, and what I’ve recently been very excited to start exploring, is small world play.

So here was our first attempt: a small world swamp. The kids helped me make it first, which may or may not have been a good idea… I think they kind of had fun, but I had a particular idea of what I wanted to achieve before letting them loose on it so I was limiting their input and creativity in this stage.


We used food coloured cornflour gloop for the swamp (mix water and cornflour, super easy); borrowed some of the rabbit’s sawdust as swamp mulch; made some spiky swamp grass by sticking cocktail sticks into polystyrene balls; used green pompoms for swamp bushes; and added some lollipop sticks for logs (some real twigs and stones would have been great, but it’s been freezing and we’ve all been sick on and off… also, as much as my sons would like it, I don’t allow them to keep a stash of sticks and stones in the tiny apartment). Finally we added some insects, spiders and a crocodile.

The first thing both of them were interested in was the gloop. Elly started digging at it with a lollipop stick and Zeph started squishing bugs into it to make prints. Then, they pretty quickly moved on to sprinkling and then tipping the sawdust into the gloop. Zeph’s crocodile started eating sawdust, and after we tipped off the excess, they both had a go at making circle shaped prints with toilet roll middles.

At this point Elly retired for a long milk break. Meanwhile Zeph spent a long time tipping the messy tray this way and that to watch the mulchy gloop sliding around. Now, when I first said activity time and started setting things out, Zeph immediately went and got some cars and laid them out too. I think he was was a little bit confused when I wanted to put them aside for the beginning at least. The cars did get a look in at this point though. I thought it was the end of any kind of themed small world play, but actually they were only out for a couple of minutes before he set them aside again to concentrate on the crocodile and the wonderful swamp mixture he was concocting!

The crocodile went from gloop to sawdust and back again. It got buried, and stuck and sprinkled. It was force-fed sawdust. The spiky swamp grass got pulled apart and mixed into the gloop. Zeph asked for more water to make the gloop more liquid, and he asked for shapes that he used to scoop and tip. Until, finally, he had enough.

Did it stay a small world play activity all the way through? No. But was it lots of fun and a good activity? Yes!