Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Trip to E-Mart

Last weekend we filled our Saturday by taking a trip to Tongyeong (just over the bridge from Geoje Island, on the mainland) to go to E-mart.  For those of you who have never been to a Korean discount department store, here's a firsthand account.

The store usually opens mid-morning, around 10, maybe 9 a.m. at the earliest.  This means there are two or three hours before noon, the witching hour when all activities in Korea become hopelessly mobbed.  Because the shopping carts have no fixed wheels, they become incredibly difficult to steer as they fill up, and navigating them through dense crowds of shoppers can be a challenge. We tried to get to E-mart early, but we were unsuccessful.  So we decided to try a special cart to entertain Sophie and hopefully escape cart steering problems:

Unfortunately, this cart was nearly impossible to steer, mostly because it now had toddler diving in and out of the car attachment repeatedly.  Still, we somehow managed to complete grocery shopping on the first floor of the store and make our way to the much more interesting second floor, where we purchased the best finds of the day:  the tea set for Sophie's Valentine's Day present, and a new shelf to hold the exponentially growing toy collection.

After we finished with our shopping spree, Keegan took Sophie to the play area while I paid for our purchases and took everything out to the car.  The play area was extensive, and Sophie had a blast, especially when she got to ride the train!

On the way back from the car, I noticed that the E-mart management has gone to great pains to make sure you really can do everything you could possibly want to do within their one-stop shopping experience.  For example:

You can buy a live pet!  Perhaps finding a dead pet would be more difficult...

You can participate in the Robot Club & Science Club!

You can start your courtship off right at the romantic Finance Cafe!

You can also eat lunch, which is what we did next.  We went downstairs to the large food court and got a huge lunch set.

After lunch, Sophie decided to commemorate our exciting trip to the department store with a few self portraits.  Here's her finest work:

We look forward to wiling away more hours at E-mart in the future, but hopefully not too soon....we need time for our wallets to recover.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day

I had a lot of fun making Valentine's Day special for Sophie this year.

Last week, we made Valentine's Day sugar cookies:

Cutting out heart-shaped cookies with Mommy

Adding sprinkles with Daddy's guidance

Trying out the finished product always leads to smiles.

Proud of our baking exploits
On Valentine's Day, we gave Sophie a new tea set, and she got a new book, Snuggle Puppy, and a corresponding stuffed puppy from Grandma and Grandpa.  All of these gifts were big hits:

Giving Snuggle Puppy a kiss.  She doesn't know how to purse her lips, but she does make a smacking sound.

Stirring her tea
Happy Valentine's Day to all the friends and family who are in our hearts.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Hawaii, Part 2

The weather was much nicer during our second week in Hawaii, so we were able to do more fun things outside.  One day we went north to Waimea to visit Aletta, the mother of Keegan's best friend from childhood, Bruce.  We had a nice breakfast at Starbuck's in Waimea and then went to the Spencer Beach Park on the west side of the island.

Spencer Beach Park
It was a gorgeous beach, and the weather was warm and sunny, but boy was it windy!  We got sandblasted on the beach but enjoyed snorkeling in the water.  There were a lot of fish and some coral and sea urchins.

Before we went to Hawaii, Sue had discovered that there was a very nice community pool in Pahoa, so we headed there one morning to swim a few laps.  Unfortunately, it was cloudy and drizzly, and the pool was unheated, so we were pretty chilly.  After we dried off and warmed up, we headed into Hilo to check out the shopping mall and see if we could find a place there for Sophie to play.  We had a great time!  We ate lunch at the Maui Taco Company, which was fantastic, and then Sophie had a chance to play in a big playground with all kinds of inflatable slides and bouncing areas.  Keegan and I did a little shopping, and when we were almost finished Sophie and I took a ride on the mall train.  Sophie was thrilled.

Riding on the train at the Hilo mall
As we spent more time with the grandparents, Sophie got more and more comfortable, and we knew that she was ready to stay on her own with them so Keegan and I could have some time to ourselves.  Our first outing was to check out the lava fields near Kalapana.  We hoped that we might be able to walk over the solidified lava out to the hot, still flowing lava from Kilauea.  When we got there, though, we found out that we would have to hire a guide to take us across the lava fields, much of which is private property.  We were disappointed, but we made plans to return another day for a guided walk.  And we made up for the disappointment by visiting the old black sand beach at Kaimu, which was beautiful, especially with the dramatic sunset that evening.  We had a lot of fun taking silhouette pictures in front of the setting sun.

Beautiful sunset at the old Kaimu Beach
Later in the week Keegan, Dad, Steve, and I were able to take the lava hike.  It was definitely a difficult walk over rolling, uneven and sharp lava outcroppings with our guide, who set a blistering pace.  The payoff was pretty amazing, though.

With Steve overlooking hot lava flowing into the ocean
Not only did we see red hot lave pouring over a cliff and into the ocean, but we also walked over scorching hot lava that had solidified only the day before.  We could even see red hot rocks glowing through cracks in the cooler lava on the surface.  I was happy to leave the hot area, where I could hear the lava cracking and popping.  The walk back was pretty arduous, and  when we finished all of us realized that the soles of our shoes showed the wear from miles shuffling over rough lava rocks.  My dad published a much more detailed account of our hike on his blog.

We also had a chance to do a much, much easier walk to see Akaka Falls, a tall waterfall cascading into lush green rainforest.

Akaka Falls
We saw some amazing bamboo and huge, prehistoric looking banyan trees.  One the way home, we stopped at the Hilo zoo again and gave Sophie a chance to play on their fantastic playground.

By this time, our trip was winding down, but we still had a lot more fun to cram in.  Keegan and his parents discovered an amazing hot pond, accessible only by Jeep.  It was toasty warm and a great place for snorkeling and swimming.

Keegan ready to swim at the tidal pool
We spent a relaxing morning there while my mom and dad enjoyed some time with their granddaughter.  Keegan and I had a chance to go out for dinner at a great little restaurant in Pahoa called Kaleo's.  We tried poke, a Hawaiian sushi salad with fresh avocado and raw tuna.  We had fresh fish and tropical cocktails and a bottle of wine and dessert.  There was live music and even a hula performance by one of the waitresses.  When we left, our waitress told us "You guys came to enjoy.  I like that."  And she was right!

Mom, Dad, Keegan and I heard about a New Year's Day Fun Run in Hilo, so the first day of 2012 saw us suited up in our running gear, ready to push Sophie in her stroller for a 5k run.  Keegan darted ahead of all of us with the stroller, and we all followed on a nice course along the bay.  After we finished, we walked out to Coconut Island to wade in the cool water, and then we spent the late morning/afternoon at the Richardson Beach Park.  It was a relaxing, fun way to end our trip.

Starting the new year right at Coconut Island

Runners and one rider after the New Year's 5k in Hilo
I hope we'll have a chance to visit Hawaii again when Sophie is a bit older - I think there is still a ton left to see and do.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Out of the Mouths of Snorks

Sophie is speaking more and more clearly, and her vocabulary grows every day.  Keegan and I wanted to write down a few of our favorite Sophie-isms before she stops saying them.  In fact, a few of her cutest words have already been replaced with more correct versions.  Sadly, Curious George is no longer referred to as "Tatum," and the doctor is no longer the "ga-gok."  But we have some new funny words:

Noodles remain goo-goos
Garbage is ga-gops
Pajamas are na-nums
Bunnies are "dee-dee-dee" in a very high-pitched squeaky voice, sometimes but not always accompanied by a hopping hand sign.

Another funny language item:  When Sophie says "uh-oh" or "oops" I always ask her "What happened?"  So now she saves me the trouble and says "Oops!  Happen."