Seolnal 2013

Tomorrow, Feb. 10, is Seolnal–the lunar new year. It’s one of the biggest celebrations in the Korean culture and is a day to honor family, observe traditions, eat rice cake soup, and receive New Year’s greetings.

I’ve blogged about the holiday before, but this year we’ve added a new twist. I’ve been trying to make all of our holidays less materialistic. For example, we parred down our Christmas gift giving this year because I felt our son was too focused on things. The same thought occurred to me with Seolnal.

Each Seolnal, children bow to their elders (saebae) and receive money (saebae ton). For the last several years, we’ve observed this tradition and our son has performed the bow and received money. But now with two (yes, I said two) Korean exchange students in our house, saebae ton was getting a little pricey. Couple that with my thought that our son was becoming too focused on money and things, and I decided we needed a new idea for saebae ton.

So I decided that some fun dollars were the answer and I found the perfect printable for it at ( Instead of money, each child will receive a few fun dollars. Each of these dollars will entitled them to some special privilege. Here are some of the things I plan to use:

You choose our dinner
It’s game night–you choose the game
Choose the movie for family movie night
Chick-flick night for the girls
A day of speaking Korean without nagging (for our student who isn’t normally allowed to speak English)
Go to bed 30 minutes late
Extra computer time
A day with no jobs

Hopefully it’s a fun way to still observe a Korean tradition but without a family twist on it. I’m not saying we’ll always do saebae on this way but I think for this year it’s a good compromise.


Famous Korean Ancestors

As anyone who reads this blog regularly knows, I love history. So it’s been fun learning about our exchange student’s famous Korean ancestors–one from each branch of her family.

On her father’s side is Jeong Yak-yong, who was an 18th scholar with a mind for engineering. He helped design and oversaw construction on the Hwaseong Fortress in what is now Suwon, and invented Korean’s first mechnical crane which involved a system of pulleys to help build the structure. The crane is called “geojunggi” in Korean.

On her mother’s side is An Jung-geun, who is famous for his role in the resistance movement against Japanese occupation. In 1909, Jung-geun assassinated Ito Hirobumi, who was the Resident-General of Korea at the time.

The assassination happened on a railway platform on October 26, in Harbin, Manchuria. An got passed Japanese guards by hiding the gun in his lunchbox, then shot Ito three times with a pistol. It is said that after the shooting, An waved the Korean flag and shouted for Korean independence using the Russian language.

These are definitely men we’ll study as our Korean history homeschool course progresses. It makes me wonder if our son’s bloodline holds any famous ancestors. Maybe someday he’ll be able to discover that. In the meantime, we claim all of Korean history as his and he has much to be proud of.


Slow Cooker Mu Guk

Yes, this is my third post on mu guk, Korean radish soup. I promise it’s not all we eat. 🙂 As our lives have gotten busier I’ve been cooking less Korean food and we’ve missed it. So I’ve decided to try recipes in my slow cooker and see how they turn out. This one turned out great! I started with the recipe I posted a year or so ago but adjusted the cooking for the slow cooker. The radishes turned out perfectly tender and my family (including Korean exchange student) gave it a two-thumbs up.

1/2 or 1 Korean radish (daikon)
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
5 c. chicken broth
5 c. water
2-3 green onions, chopped
2 Tbsp. soup soy sauce (국간장)

1. Slice radish in squares about 1/2-inch thick.
2. Turn the slow cooker on high, and throw in the radish. Coat with the sesame oil.
3. Add in the minced garlic, broth, and water.
3. Lower the heat to low and cook for about 8 hours.
4. Before serving, stir in soup soy sauce and green onions.

Serve with rice and banchan.

Seolnal (설날) Is Coming

Just a reminder that Seolnal (설날), also known as Lunar New Year, is early this year. It’s Monday, Jan. 23–one week from today. Again this year our family won’t get to have a whole day celebration since the husband’s magazine is on deadline that day and our exchange will be in school.

But we will have tteokguk (떡국), the traditional rice cake soup eaten on this holiday that allows you to turn a year older; we’ll play yut nori; and the kids will do sebae and receive sebae ton. All of these traditions have been written about on this belong in previous years and can be found by looking through the Holidays category.

This year on Seolnal we’ll also do a presentation on Korea for our exchange student’s school class. I’ll be posting more about this presentation in the coming week to you some ideas about things to do during school presentations.

Until then, 새해 복 많이 받으세요! We do hope you all receive many new year’s blessings.

A Blog Birthday

Well, this blog turned a year old on March 13. I’d planned to post that day and hopefully begin to get back to regular posting. Instead, during the last week, I’ve crossed five states and helped my husband deal with a death in his family. The last week has not been at all what I’d thought it would be.

Anyway, I wanted to thank everyone who follows the blog. I love the comments and knowing that others are enjoying and benefiting from the blog. I’d planned it to be a year-long daily blog, which didn’t happen, so I do plan to continue posting and sharing what the things I learn.

We arrived home yesterday and I got sick during the last part of the trip, so I’m taking some time off to get healthy. But hopefully I’ll be back soon.

Happy Valentine’s Day

Today is the day for love. Of course, the 14th of every month is a day for love in Korea (

Yes, Korea does celebrate Valentine’s Day but not in the same way we do in the United States. Feb. 14 in Korea is the day for females to give gifts, often chocolates, to the males they love. Yep, you read that right, ladies–no flowers or chocolates for you on Feb. 14 if you live in Korea.

But don’t think you’ve been forgotten; your day is White Day on March 14 ( Just wait one month and your sweetheart should reciprocate.

Valentine’s Day isn’t a big deal in our house. Little guy usually draws me a picture and we’ll go out for dinner as a family. Tonight it’s our favorite Korean restaurant so I’m looking forward to kimchi jeon, bibimbap, and lots of banchan.

Sae hae bok mani… A Greeting for Seollal

While there are many expressions to use in Korean to say, “Happy New Year,” the most common is 새해 복 많이 받으세요 (sae hae bok manhi bah doo seh yo).

When broken down, the expression literally means please receive lots of good luck in the coming year.

If you’d like to hear this phrase pronounced, head over to to The following link will take you to a video lesson in which you’ll hear the phrase pronounced and see it broken down by word. They also go over a few other new year expressions, but don’t worry about those. This three-minute video will explain everything.

Trying to Catch Up

I’m trying to play catch up these days. Since I’d planned for this to be a “daily” blog, I had planned out posts over the course of a year to correspond with certain days. But I missed a lot of those, and because I really want there to be one post for every day of one calendar year, I’m back-dating some posts.

In an effort to make it easier for my regular readers to not miss new but back-dated posts, I’m adding categories to make these new posts easier to find. The posts will be categorized under their regular category (Language, Holidays, etc.) and they’ll be included under a category that is labeled NEW-Month Name. For example, I just posted a new language post, which you can find under Language and NEW-November.

In the end, there should be NEW categories for every month since August 2010, which is when I really fell off posting. I hope this post makes sense and helps you to find the new material that’s being back-dated. Enjoy!

Open Letter to

Hyunwoo and all TTMIK teachers,

Here in the States, November is National Adoption Month. As loyal listeners and adoptive mothers of Korean children, we are putting in our “official” request to TTMIK to create a new lesson series focusing on Korean language activities that beginner-Korean parents can learn along with their children!

Research continues to show that, for a healthy life and identity, transracial adoptees should participate in activities related to their birth cultures. Language is the necessary building block for all the relationships that our Korean children will have with other Korean friends, teachers — and even with their own birth families. Korean adoptees who may take Korean language classes in their communities (if they are available at all) are often at an early disadvantage by not having a native Korean speaker at home. Even very young children can benefit from language-based games or rhymes (such as the Korean versions of “Paper, Rock, Scissors” or “London Bridge”). We would be happy to give you input as to lesson themes as the series progressed.

Our kids’ brains are at their most receptive to new languages right now! We encourage TTMIK to use their ingenuity and love of Korean language to develop this new language series and will be encouraging all the adoptive Korean families we know to send you similar messages in the month of November. We know you can do it, and do it well!


Amber Dorko Stopper and Amy Hardin Partain

I Haven’t Disappeared

At least not completely; just from blogging. The last week has been spent doing home repairs and the week before that pouting over a situation our family is currently enduring.

I plan to keep going with the blog, but posts may be more sporadic. Since I’m not of Korean descent, some posts take me a lot of time to research. I enjoy everything I’m learning and it’s benefitting my family, which is why I want to keep going even if it’s not daily.

I’m always open to ideas, guest bloggers, and questions.