Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Korean Food: How it helped me lose 100 lbs.

Stir fried kimchi (left) and my favorite ramen

I started on my current weight loss journey in about 2019.  Something that has always been a challenge for me is getting more veggies into my diet.  I'm just not a fan.  Or at least I wasn't.  Korean food has changed my view on vegetables and helped me change the entire way I eat. And while there are still some vegetables that I just don't enjoy (I'm looking at you tomato and any color pepper), there are many more that I have learned how to eat and enjoy on a regular basis.  How did that happen?  Well, let me try to explain...

Cabbage and tofu jeon
It began with watching people cook and eat on Korean television shows.  If you've ever seen a Korean variety show, you know that they make nearly every food they eat look delicious.  Whether it's ramen, soup, rice, kimchi, pizza, chicken or whatever, it looks like it's the most delicious food they've ever had.  And because they are so excited about the way it tastes, it made me curious about it myself.  As I watched shows like "Chef and My Fridge" or "Delicious Rendezvous", foods that I never had any interest in trying, like kimchi or seafood, all of the sudden looked too tasty to pass up.  Since Korean restaurants are not plentiful where I live, I started learning how to cook the foods I had seen on tv and sure enough...they were delicious.  

Slowly things that had never been a part of my diet before, (like cabbage, kimchi, riced cauliflower, spinach, carrots, green onion and more) started entering my diet on a daily basis. Spices that I'd never used were also introduced. Spices like gochugaru (red pepper powder), gochujang (red pepper paste), and sesame oil. On Weight Watchers, vegetables are 0 point foods so that means you can basically eat as much of them as you like.  So these foods not only were introducing more nutrients to my body, but keeping me from getting hungry as well.  

I learned how to make kimchi jiggae (a jiggae is a stew), jeon (a savory vegetable pancake), stir fry dishes, and lots of other things that easily filled me up, but were low in points.  The more Korean cooking shows and YouTube channels I watched, the more things I wanted to try.  Don't get me wrong.  Not all Korean food is diet friendly.  Some of it is very high is calories.  But, as I would work out the recipes, I'd exchange higher point items for lower point ones and eventually found a host of Korean or Korean inspired foods that I could make for myself that would be delicious, but also fit into my diet plan. 

Here is just one example. Gimbap is a Korean staple...along the same lines as Americans would think of a sandwich. The ingredients inside can vary, but the main one is rice.  Rice is high in points but you need a lot of it to make gimbap properly.  So, I use part rice and part cauliflower rice.  When it is seasoned together it works great. Then it's just a matter of adding other ingredients. For the version pictured below, I used baked chicken and stir fried kimchi. You roll it up in a seaweed wrap and voila!  

Gimbap after it's rolled.

Gimbap before it's rolled.
This change in eating wasn't something that happened quickly.  It took me a couple years to totally change my eating habits and I also include exercise, but I did eventually lose 100lbs.  I gained a little when I took my trip to Korea and over the holidays, but I'm in process of getting that back off and headed toward my goal weight once again.  I still have about 60lbs to lose before I hit my final goal.  But I'll do it.  I've already come a long way.  You can see the change in my face story below.  If you have questions or want some more fun lower point Korean food tips, let me know.  I'm always glad to share what I've learned.  

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Hooray!!! SHINee and SUPER JUNIOR are back!!!

 The last few weeks have brought some really fun comebacks and I'm loving it.  

First can I just say I was SO EXCITED to see SHINee back with a new album after them being on hiatus while Key, Onew, and Minho completed their military service.  Of course Taemin was busy and it was great to see him perform solo or with SuperM, but there is nothing as awesome as seeing them all back together.  When I first heard the new song "Don't Call Me" I wished so much that I still had ringback tones on my phone.  What a perfect song for that.  LOL.  I was so curious to know if anyone would actually hang up if they called and heard "Don't call me, Don't call me, Don't call me" being played in their ear.  LOL!!!  Makes me smile just to think about it.  

Along with the rest of the songs on the album, it's been a blast seeing SHINee on various variety shows and Youtube channels.  This particular video was just too adorable and I must admit that I watched it more than once.  :-) You can watch it here with English Subtitles: Kids Review K-Pop Star's Career (Feat. SHINee)  Plus Key seems to have started a new trend as the ending prince during the KPop Music shows.  If you don't know what that is, it's basically the final shot of a group after their performance and the camera does a close up on one member.  Key started doing these comical things when the cameras came to him and it seems to have caught on a bit with other groups too.  It's awesome. 

Next up was SUPER JUNIOR.  They are my favorite Kpop group and it's always fun to see them perform together or even individually.  The 9 members are active in tons of various types of programs both as guests and/or hosts, but it's extra special to see them together.  And the fact that HeeChul is actually performing on stage with them just warms my heart.  Though he was a part of the videos, he had stepped out of live performances because of a leg injury that never healed properly after a bad car accident, but it seems they've found a way for him to participate live and it's just amazing to see them all on stage together again in their live performances.  Though, it's not the title song, I feel I must bring attention to their performance of Burn the Floor.  This is may be the most unique performance I've seen in ages and I love it.  Sadly, it doesn't have English subs, but you can check it out here: Burn The Floor
Also, the same YouTube channel I mentioned above, also did a Kids Review of Super Junior that was a hoot.  

Seeing these groups who have been together so long (SUPER JUNIOR debuted in 2005, and SHINee debuted in 2008) and have stayed active and popular is a feat in itself.  I am proud to be a fan.  :-) 

Saturday, August 29, 2020

How a KDrama Changed My Life

About 4 years ago, I lost both my Grandparents unexpectedly within weeks of each other.  One was of natural causes, but the other was not and to say that my world was in chaos would be an extreme understatement. During this time of grief, anger, sadness and confusion, my mind was often overwhelmed and in the evenings, when I would go home from work to the now empty home that I had shared with my Grandma, it could be a bit more than I could handle at times.  

One night during all this, I turned on Netflix and it recommended the Korean Drama (KDrama) "Boys Over Flowers." It had been recommended to me several times before, but I'd been uninterested in watching anything with subtitles.  However, this night, it occurred to me that I would have to focus on the subtitles to watch the show which would keep my mind occupied so I decided to give it a try.  I had no idea how pressing "play" would change my life.

As I watched the show, I was intrigued by the storytelling and the fact that there was so much happening in each episode. I also found it interesting that the soundtrack was repeated throughout the show.  Each character seemed to have their own song that would play in various parts of the story.  Plus, the drama was clean. Though Netflix often likes to add swear words that are not there, the reality is Kdramas are generally very clean and family friendly.  What a breath of fresh air to my weary wholesome entertainment parched soul.

From that drama, I branched out to other Asian Dramas and began to watch shows first from Japan and Taiwan then eventually including China, Thailand, and other countries. As I watched I became curious about Asian culture and wanted to know more. Because I am quite conservative, it was so cool to FINALLY be seeing my lifestyle and values reflected in the shows I was watching.  I had not seen that in American television in ages and it was so pleasant to see my world reflected in those shows.  

The soundtracks led me to Kpop which I love and now listen to all the time.  As a former music business major, I am intrigued not only by the phenomenal talent showcased by the groups, but also in the way it is marketed and promoted. When KPop got popular here in the USA all of the sudden, it was the first time I ever felt ahead of the cultural curve.  When young people mention their favorite artists they are usually shocked that I'm already quite familiar with that group and generally know more than they do about them.  LOL.  

A few weeks into my drama watching, it occurred to me that my church was going to have a massive convention before long and that there would be delegates who spoke Chinese, Korean, and Japanese there.  I thought it would be so cool if I could greet them in their own languages.  So, I downloaded beginner lessons audiobooks for all three languages.  I started with Chinese and the tonal aspect was too scary for me, so I set it aside. When I started the Korean lesson, one of the first things it said was that if you learn Korean, it would make learning Chinese and Japanese easier.  I am very much an audio learner when it comes to language, so since it seemed like there was more Korean language content available online to watch and listen to, I decided to focus there.  So my language learning journey began and continues to this day.  Now about 4 years later, I'm still not great since I rarely get to practice, but I do understand quite a bit and can speak more than people realize.  I'm taking one-on-one tutoring from time to time now and that is helping too.

As I continued to learn about the culture, study the language, and watch television from South Korea, there began to stir in me a desire to see the country for myself.  To see the places that I'd seen only in pictures and video and try the foods and activities I'd only heard about up to then.  After doing some research I discovered that though, it would take some time for me to be able to afford it, that a trip to South Korea was not terribly expensive and if I planned well, I'd be able to go in a few years.  However, another issue was my size.  I've had weight issues all my life and I knew that if I wanted to go overseas, I'd need to lose a lot of weight.  First so that I'd be able to comfortably sit in the plane seat for the trip and 2nd so that I could do all the things I wanted to do while I was there.  So, that began my weight loss journey.  

As I learned about the food in South Korea, I started changing my way of eating so that I'd be comfortable eating the foods I'd find there.  I've been a very picky eater most of my life, but I knew that would not work.  Korean food tends to be spicy and full of veggies...two things I'd always avoided.  I needed to get used to those things.  For about 2 years I worked on learning to like vegetables as well as increasing my spicy food tolerance.  Then in October of 2019, I joined Weight Watchers and continued my weight loss journey in earnest. I have recently also added more exercise in my life as well and that too is helping with the weight loss.  I'm now down around 83 pounds (with much more to go) and have lost 71 inches. I've lost 5ft 11 inches off my 5ft 7 inch frame, but I've got more to lose, so I press on.

One of my biggest goals for my trip to South Korea was to be able to hike Mt. Hallasan (pictured below).  I want to see the beautiful scenery in the photos for myself.  When I began my planning, that would not have been possible.  My size would not have allowed it.  Now, I am encouraged that I will be able to do it.  When I go and take a picture from the top...I may just burst into tears from excitement of finally reaching my more than 4 years in the making (by the time I go).

People often ask me, "Why are you learning Korean?" It feels so inadequate to say that I became interested through a drama, even though it's the truth.  With the exception of my Faith, nothing else has caused so much positive change in my life as pressing "play" on that Kdrama. I started learning a new language, am studying new cultures, changed my bad eating habits, and am on my way to a healthy weight and lifestyle...and the reality is, it all started with "Boys Over Flowers."  I'm so glad I watched it. 

Monday, July 22, 2019

Some Fun New K-Variety

Hey Everyone!

One genre of Korean Entertainment that I really enjoy is the Variety/Reality shows.  They are so funny and I've "met" so many entertainers that I was unaware of before through them.  In fact, most of my favorite Kpop groups I became aware of because of their appearances on these shows. Whether they are short shows or full length episodes, KVariety is my Go-To when I want to smile, laugh, and relax. There are a few new shows that have begun recently and, so far, they are just a hoot! If you need a smile, I highly recommend checking out one of these:

GOT2DAY 2019  - This is the 4th Season of GOT7's GOT2DAY series and it's great to be able to watch the group just chat one on one with each other.  The episodes are short (around 10-12 minutes) and you get to see the fun personalities that all iGot7's know and love. You can find it on VLive and YouTube.

Matching Survival 1+1 - This is a dating game show and it seems to be constantly evolving since the first two episodes are quite different from that latter episodes. The current format is that several men and women enter a grocery store in the hopes of finding their love.  There are several rounds of games where partners are chosen based on choices made in the store.  At the end, they choose the person they want to be a couple with by asking if that person will "scan their barcode."  It's super cute and I'm enjoying it a lot.  You can find it on both Kocowa and Viki.

The Barber of Seville - Ok, honestly, this is not a show that I thought I'd like at first, but I am enjoying it so much.  Basically it follows 5 Korean Celebrities and a Master Hairstylist, and Master Barber as they set up shops in Seville, Spain.  The men run a barber shop and the women run a beauty salon, but they all share a large home as a living quarters.  As much as most Korean television makes me hungry...this show does the same for making me want to get my hair done.  For real...every time I watch I'm like, "I want to get a haircut!" So far there are only 2 episodes out and I'm looking forward to more.  This show can also be found on both Kocowa and Viki.

That's all for now. Till next time!!!

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Why Do You Like K-Pop?

So, full disclosure, I am not anywhere near the demographic that the K-Pop Music World is trying to appeal to. I am a 43 year old American woman living in the middle of farm country. But I LOVE K-Pop.  I listen to very little in English anymore of any genre.  This is a bit odd for me because I've always been a huge fan of most kinds of music.  I've enjoyed Country, Pop, Classical, Blues, Disco, Rock and more over the years.  I was a Music Business major in college so I've even studied the production/advertising/legal side of the industry.  But KPop, for me, is the most fascinating genre of music I've ever seen. (I'm putting screen shots from my iTunes library throughout this post so you can get a sense of a few of the groups I listen to regularly. I'm sorry I couldn't put them all in, but there are at least some.)

Why?  That is the question I get most often.  Not always in words.  Most of the time is comes in the form of raised eyebrows and a confused look on the face of the person I'm talking to.  If you're a kid or teenager, people just nod and think, "What a cute phase they are in." But when you're a grown adult, somehow now you need to be able to defend what you like when what you like is different from what those around you enjoy.  So, What makes it not a just a phase I'm going through?  Here are a few reasons that I find it so appealing. Maybe you feel the same way. Let's find out.

     I was talking to a friend the other day and I told them, I don't think it's possible to find an untalented Kpop group.  It simply doesn't exist.  Before they debut most of these artists have trained for years in their craft.  On top of singing, dancing, and rapping (which is the mandatory talent needed within every group), it's not at all uncommon to find out that various members also act, choreograph, direct, write, compose, and/or play other instruments.  When they perform, the precision is incredible and the fact that they can sing and dance such complex choreographies LIVE...well that's just beyond my comprehension. They are just THAT good.

     Now, I can't say that every single Kpop song is this way, but the majority of the songs that I listen to and the groups that I follow are very positive upbeat songs.  They make you feel happy.  They lift your spirit and make your feet want to dance.  It's quite literally music that makes me smile.  Even when the messages are deeper, more thought provoking, of a powerful ballad, I am often left in a better mood than when I turned on the music.

     There are bad apples everywhere and in fact, there are some incredibly upsetting scandals right now in the Kpop world.  BUT, by and large, the members of K-Pop groups are good role models. Now granted, these groups are very often contracted to be good influences.  As in, it seems that it is in their contract that they are to be people that others can look up to. That being said, as we are seeing through the scandals, for some it might be an act...but I appreciate that MOST of them seem to be genuinely good people. People who care about their fans and take seriously that others are watching them and want to be like them.  It's a heavy burden for them to carry, but they do it well.

     As someone who has worked with children for around 20 years, I would look for artists here in the States who could be held up as good examples for the kids and when I would find one, I'd be thrilled and do all I could to promote them...only to often have that same artist decide a little down the road that they didn't want to be a role model and actively choose to be someone or make choices that the children SHOULDN'T emulate. It was heartbreaking...and it happened more than once.

     I love that if I recommend a group to a teenager or child, that if they (or their parents) look up that group, they are generally going to find people that show respect to elders, take care of those younger than themselves, look out for the modesty of the people around them, show kindness to everyone and appreciate the celebrity that they have, but continue to be humble. It's such a breath of fresh air.

Finally, let me say that I know the world of     K-Pop is far from perfect.  There are industry issues, issues with how artists are treated...just all sorts of issues.  No one is saying that it is a perfect place.  There is room for improvement...lots of room.  But even so, it's a world that brings joy to so many of us and one that we are so glad others are beginning to notice as well.


Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The BBMA's, FORESTELLA & The New Podcast from Eric Nam

Hey Everyone!
I'm sorry that it has been forever since I posted anything.  Will try and do better from now on.  I promise!

There is so much going on that I want to talk about.  First up is the Billboard Music Awards. Let me start of by saying that I literally have not listened American pop music in ages, so I have had zero reason to pay attention to the award shows...UNTIL RECENTLY.  Since shows like the AMA's, BBMA's, and even the Grammy's are giving notice to the amazing talent that K-pop has to offer, I am so much more interested.  I even watch the red carpet shows now (which I never used to care about).  This year, what makes me most excited is the Top Social Artist Award.  There are 3 K-pop groups nominated.  GOT7, EXO, and BTS were nominated along with two other artists (Ariana Grande, Louis Tomlinson).  How fantastic is that?  The nominees for that category are literally a MAJORITY Korean.  That's huge for the USA.  As a whole, Non-English music is not always as popular here, but K-Pop is so addictive that we just can't get enough.  I'm so glad so many others are finding these groups and I hope EXO, GOT7 and many other K-pop groups get just as popular as BTS is here.

Side note:  I've never seen anything like the BTS phenomenon...and I was around when the insane popularity surrounding NSYNC was happening. This seems way bigger. Case in point:  I live in a very rural area.  In fact, though they are not the majority, there are tons of Amish people here. (Amish are a religious community that does not participate in many modern ways of life like electricity or motor vehicles...they travel mostly be foot, bicycle, or horse and buggy. They are known for their amazing wood craftsmanship, quilts, and incredible cooking among many other things). And yet even in this area, where it is as common to see a horse and buggy on the road as a semi truck, a high schooler told me that you could find BTS all over her school.  I was chatting with a teenager at a local hospital who turned out to be a BTS fan.  It's incredible how they seem to show up everywhere.  WOW!

Secondly, I recently came across a Crossover Group called FORESTELLA and they have changed my world.  Seriously...there are not words enough to express how incredible the voices are in this group.  There are four members, but somehow they blend as one.  I have heard a lot of quartets over the years (seriously...a lot), but I have never heard a blend like this.  It gives you goosebumps whether you understand the language or not.  And they are so versatile that they can sing an aria type song one minute and then turn around an do a version of "Bohemian Rhapsody" that would make Queen proud (and maybe a bit jealous?)   I scoured the internet looking for their music and since iTunes only carries one of their songs, I bought the physical copy of their album "Evolution" (see photo). To say that it's a great album would be a massive understatement. They sing songs in English, Italian and Korean throughout the CD.  If you have not heard them, check out this video and then look up their "Bohemian Rhapsody on YouTube.  You won't regret it!   I played this video for an elderly lady who does not speak Korean and she was so impressed, she said, "How can there be a group like this?"  I totally understand her feeling. 

And finally, my week was made when I discovered that the amazing Eric Nam has started his own podcast called "K-Pop Daebak With Eric Nam" (you can find it listed as @DaebakShow on Twitter). I love listening to podcasts and even with only three episodes currently out, I think this one is going to be one of my favorites.  Why? Well, full disclosure, I've been a fan for awhile. The pic to the right is a peek at my iTunes collection.  But also, because this podcast is real.  Eric Nam is an incredibly talented and popular artist in his own right and he brings his love and knowledge of music as well as insider thoughts and stories that no other podcast I've found can compete with.  He's funny and he banters with two other people who seem like they are sitting in the background so not really always on the mic, but you can still easily hear them.  One of them is consistently asked to make up jingles on the spot...which he does. Seems like it should be awkward, but it totally works.  I highly recommend it!  You can find the podcast on iTunes here:  or it's available in other places too like Spotify and SoundCloud.

That's it for now people! If you want to follow my daily thoughts about Kdrama and K-pop, follow me on Twitter at kdramakpoptalkfest. I hope you have an amazing week and I'll be back soon!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Standing Up for Abuse Victims...Three Things Literally Anyone Can Do.

I have been working with children and teenagers in some capacity for more than 20 years.  Though abuse in any form is horrifying, there is nothing, in my opinion, more vile that the abuse of a child.  I have worked with children from all kinds of abusive situations over the years and while the abuse affected each one somewhat differently, the one thing they all have in common is that they were forever changed by what happened to them.  They would never be able to go back to the way they looked at the world before.

Sadly no country is immune to this issue.  No culture has figured out how to eradicate this problem.  So, when we hear of abuse we want to stand up for those who can not stand up for themselves.  Here in the United States, if you have certain jobs (such as a teacher or pastor) you are what is called a "mandatory reporter" and if we even suspect that a child or teenager is being abused we are required to report our suspicions.  So we try very hard to watch out for those who are in our care.  But even so, the problem is still there and shows no signs of going away. It can feel like a losing battle. But then you hear a story that is so heinous that you simply can't look away from it and you realize that you MUST find a way to do something.  For me, the story of what has happened to The East Light was one of those moments.

If you are unfamiliar with The East Light, they are a Korean Pop Group that debuted in 2016.  The members currently range in age from 15-18.   Last week it came out that the group had been verbally and physically abused by their producer and CEO for nearly 4 years.  That means that when the abuse started the ages of the group ranged from around 11-14 years old.  They were children!  According to Korean culture you are not an adult until you are 20 so even now they are all STILL minors.  The leader of the group, Lee Seok Cheol (18 years old), held a press conference where he told in detail about some of the abuse they had received.  The video is hard to watch, but I urge you to watch it.  It has English subtitles and we need to hear his story.  Abuse victims feel they will not be heard or believed, this is one way we can show him that we hear him.  This young man is so brave in the face of what has to be overwhelming fear.  He talks about how he and the members were beaten with microphones, baseball bats and other things.  He personally had a guitar string wrapped around his neck for four hours and if he messed up, it would be pulled so as to strangle him.  They were threatened that they would be killed if they told their parents.  Remember this started 4 years ago when they were very young teens so it's no wonder they believed the threats.

Their company has denied the charges in some respects, but even in their denials they talk about how they knew that abuse had happened, so I'm not sure that can actually be called a denial. In their own words they found out about the abuse well over a year ago and yet the Producer in question was not fired.  He resigned recently (if I'm understanding the news correctly).  Fortunately The East Light members have photographic, audio, and text evidence of the abuse that happened.  Plus this video, which came out from The East Light themselves in 2017 is, in my opinion, video evidence as well. Starting at the 27 second mark, you can clearly hear one of the members being beaten in the background while he says (in Korean) "It was a mistake!" and "It hurts!" and you can hear him crying out in pain.  This is not something that can easily be swept under the rug.  Maybe more disturbing is that if you keep watching you see that this young man now has to join the rest of the group for the video and act as if nothing had happened.

So, you might be wondering why am I telling you this.  Many of you who will read this blog, don't listen to Korean Pop.  Here is why.  When we hear of abuse in the world, we MUST shine a light on it.  Evil thrives in darkness.  It's not about the fact that these are K-pop musicians.  It's the fact that they are children who have been abused brutally and their lives threatened.  And they are not the only ones.  This happens all over the world in all sorts of circumstances to people of all ages, races, and stages of life.  WE MUST STAND UP FOR THOSE WHO CAN'T STAND UP FOR THEMSELVES.

How?  I'm glad you asked.  Here are three things literally anyone can do.

1) Listen!  As I mentioned earlier, people who have been abused feel that they won't be heard and won't be believed.  We must listen to them.  If you are with a person who wants to share their story with you, Listen.  Don't judge.  Don't give advice.  Listen.  Those who have been abused MUST first be heard.  If you can listen in person, of course that is the best way.  But if that is not possible, if you can, find another way to listen.  For example, in The East Light situation, we can watch the press conference.  Seeing the number of views go up on YouTube would be encouraging to The East Light and frightening to the abusers. Even a small gesture like that shows that people cared enough to listen.

2) Show your Support!  In all parts of the world there are ways to show support for abuse victims.  It could be taking part in a walk-a-thon.  It could be volunteering at a center that helps abuse victims.  It could be as simple as using a hashtag like the one for the situation above (#JusticefortheEastLight) to raise awareness or signing a petition in support of anti-abuse legislature.  In whatever part of the world you are in, find out how you are able to show support, and then show it.  You might feel uncomfortable, but this is not about our comfort.  This is bigger than that.  

3) Educate yourself!  Do you know that signs of abuse?  Do you know who to call if you see those signs?  Do you know the places near you that provide services for those who have been abused?  If you answered "No" to any of those questions, then you need to educate yourself.  Because if you don't know what to look for, you may be missing signs around you that someone NEEDS you to see.  It's not hard to find this information.  Literally type in "Signs of abuse" into any search engine and you will be given multiple resources.  Sit down and read some of them.  All it will cost you is a little time.  

These are just a few small things that anyone can easily do to help #EndViolence.  If one person does these three things, it is helpful.  However, if EVERYONE did just these three things, I believe we could make an immense and lasting impact.  Why?  Because can you imagine what would happen if everyone was showing their support for those who have been abused in some small way?  How much abuse would go unnoticed, if everyone knew the signs of abuse and were actively looking for them?  What change in society there would be if abuse victims felt they could share their stories because people were taking the time to actually listen?  If we each do our part, there is no way that the world doesn't change. #DO3THINGS  

Will you join me and #DO3THINGS?  Let's change the world! 

For the USA, the national domestic abuse hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

Korean Food: How it helped me lose 100 lbs.

Stir fried kimchi (left) and my favorite ramen I started on my current weight loss journey in about 2019.  Something that has always been a ...