Monday, March 18, 2013

Making a House a Home

I’ll be the first to admit it. I am a terrible decorator. I love it when I walk into someone’s house and everything is just so and they have cool art pieces and just the right accent wall, blah blah blah. I admire those homes and the artist who set it up that way with a sort of awe. How did they do that? How did they know which pieces to buy, where to put them, and what color to pick for their throw pillows? My sister knows how to do it; my mother is great at it…  I, however, fall short in this area. As it turns out, decorating is one of those skills that is important to help you settle in to your living quarters. The throw pillows and accent walls can make the difference between feeling at home and feeling like you are permanently staying in a hotel.

So, what is a less-than-artsy girl to do when she wants to make her apartment seem like less of a stay at the Hilton and more of a home? I tried my hand at art, pictures, area rugs, etc. but our apartment still lacked a certain je ne sais quoi. Our apartment still seemed to fall short of our friends’ places that had seemed to capture the essence of “home”. After much soul searching, I think I finally found the answer: appliances.

As one who loves to eat and therefore must love to cook, I slowly came to the realization that no home of mine would be complete without my stand mixer given to me by my mother for our wedding. This spectacular treasure spent four tragic years collecting dust in our storage unit until this summer when I had enough sense to pull the ol’ girl out and ship her to Korea. I didn’t realize just how naked my counter was until this glorious piece of equipment graced the Formica in August. When I see pictures of our first two years in the apartment, I immediately notice the gaping Kitchenade-shaped hole near the sink. How had I survived for so long without it? That question will have to remain unanswered as I can only reflect on how my kitchen and my cookies will be forever changed by this home-making addition to our apartment.

As the year wore on, we started to realize that our apartment was still missing something; it wasn’t complete just yet. We pondered our dilemma for some time and finally found what our home was missing. This darling little domestic device was installed just last week:

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, a dishwasher. Admittedly we are still figuring this little beauty out as all of the instructions are in Korean and my once-a-week class hasn’t reached the “appliance instructions” chapter yet. At any rate, we have now re-entered the modern age of mechanical dish washing. It was a lovely four and a half years of soap suds and rubber gloves but it is time to move on.

And so, I have come to this conclusion. Should you come and visit a home of the Simpsons (be it in Seoul or somewhere else in the world), you may not have decorative pillows matching hand-knit afghans on the couch. There may not be special guest towels that were chosen to coordinate with the soap dish in the bathroom. But, in my home I can always promise you fluffy cakes and spotless dishes. Is that enough for you? For me, at least, these two details were enough to make our house a home.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Is It Spring Yet?

I’m not sure if you have had a chance to check your calendar, but we are in March already. March, people! How did this happen? I think that one of the reasons that I find this so hard to believe is that it is still unbelievably cold here. Now, I know that it is all relative. Sometimes we talk to our friends who moved here from the Philippines or India and shiver whenever the thermometer dips below 70°. Other times, we talk to friends who moved here from Moscow who haven’t pulled their winter coats out yet. Finding a sensible medium between the two, I am going to tell you that it is cold here and has been for a while.

I also recognize that you might be thinking, “Hey, man up. You are from Denver!” Yes, I know I was born and raised at the foot of the Rocky Mountains but a Colorado winter is quite different from a Korean one. While Denver does indeed deal with blizzards that bury highways and temperatures so low they make your water pipes freeze, Mother Nature frequently smiles upon Colorado and sprinkles sunny 60° days throughout the winter months. Seoul is different. In January, the average temperature was 27° and I can’t remember a day where the high was above freezing. February had a few days above 32°but not by much. Yes, I am used to cold. I know how to scrape ice off of a windshield and I make sure to dress in layers to maximize body heat insulation. But, I am also used to only having to apply those helpful tidbits on and off throughout Colorado’s unusually long “possible snow season”. I am used to expecting snow at Halloween and Easter (never Christmas) but I am also used to pulling out short sleeves in December.

So this whole eternal winter thing is kind of cramping my style. And, I know I am not the only one. All four of us seem to be suffering from a delusional cabin fever. We see the sun shining outside and, for some unknown reason, think that it must be a great day to take a walk. So, we say the magic word “Go” to the girls and they are off like shots to the front door ready to be released from their indoor prison. Not five minutes into our excursion, however, we are forced to succumb to nature as the girls bury their rosy cheeks and snotty noses into our shoulders to shield their faces from an icy wind.

But, I know that spring is around the corner. Well, maybe not around the corner but at least at the end of the block. On particularly cold and dreary days, I find myself wistfully flipping through last year’s pictures to find when we started spending extended periods outside or even wearing short sleeves. It has to warm up soon, right? Right?