Teach Me Tuesday Korean A Single Shard Linda Sue Park PragmaticMom Pragmatic Mom Celadon Asian Pottery

Discovering Korea for Kids with Kids’ Books, Art and Food

Exploring Korea through Books for Kids, Celadon Pottery, Chosun Chests and More!

This was my second pilgrimage to the Brimfield Antique Flea Market with Sharon Schindler Photography and Capability:Mom. Sharon is there to shoot and shop. She shot some amazing vintage photographs there last year and Capability:Mom has the Ball Jars photo on her kitchen wall. This year they both scored blue-y tinged vintage Ball Jars for a song, a purchase that was made sweeter when we found out that the rest of the vintage jars there were much more expensive!

sharon schindler fine photgraphy icons of boston vintage photos ball jars pragmatic mom pragmaticmom brimfield fair antique shoppingImage by Sharon Schindler. Print available here.

As for me, I was looking for tallish knick knacks for the living room and found a beautiful piece of pottery that reminded me of the pottery described in A Single Shard. I was guessing (and hoping) that my piece is Korean but I’m not really sure. It’s gorgeous Celadon celery green in color with a carved out design that is glazed over.

Teach Me Tuesday Korean A Single Shard Linda Sue Park PragmaticMom Pragmatic Mom Celadon Asian Pottery

A Single Shard is set during 12th century Korea, long considered the Golden Age of Korea. I thought I would continue down the path of my family history via Teach Me Tuesday and tell you about my husband’s ancestral history. My husband is Korean and related to the older brother who was passed over for his younger brother — unusual in Korean monarchies. This younger brother was Taejo Yi Seong-gye whose reign started the Yi Dynasty, also known as Joseon, Chosŏn, Choson, or Chosun which lasted approximately five centuries. “The Joseon’s rule has left a substantial legacy on the modern face of Korea; much of modern Korean etiquette, cultural norms, societal attitudes towards current issues, and even the modern Korean language and its dialects stem from the traditional thought pattern that originated from this period.” from Wikipedia

Family legend has it that these relatives all had light golden brown eyes, very different from the dark brown eyes of most Asians. My husband and his siblings have these same colored eyes. His turn golden brown, almost hazel, when he is out all day in the sun. I don’t know if this is a genetic mutation á la hemophilia of the European monarchy or a result of mixing of blood through Russians who came to isolationist Korea during this time. My husband thinks he might have Russian blood but we’ll never know!

If you want to learn more about Korean history, here’s a good link.


Children’s Literature

Dear Juno by Soyung Pak [picture book, ages 4-9]

Dear Juno is another gem that, while it focuses on a Korean American experience, it transcends Asian American children’s literature and speaks to anyone who has family in another country that speak another language that our kids do not understand. I have a post on it here.

A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park [chapter book for ages 8-12]

Newbery award winning book about a famous potter during the Golden Age of Korea. I have a Top 10 List of Korean American Children’s Books here.

Seesaw Girl by Linda Sue Park [chapter book for ages 8-12]

A glimpse into the lives of the  nobility during the Golden Age of Korea and the restrictions placed on women.

Korean Celadon Pottery

These are examples of contemporary Korean Celadon pottery and are for sale. To examine more closely, just click on image of photo.

White Lotus Vase & Bottle

Mu-ji (plain) Vase & Bottle

Chests of Korea’s Chosun Dynasty

These chests are highly collectible largely due to the fact that many were burned for firewood during the Korean War. There simply are not many of these left so if you are thinking of getting one, beware of fakes. Here’s more information on the chests from KoreanMosiac.net:

The chests presented here are the bandajijangham, and nong. (For information on the pronunciation of Korean, see the box “Romanization,” below.) The bandaji was used for storing clothing, documents and valuables inside, and bedding on top during the day (which explains why it is called a “blanket chest” in English). It has one door, which usually runs the entire width of the chest and opens down from the very top. The jang has from one to three levels (rarely a fourth) in one frame, with two outward-opening doors in the center of each level. The ham was a box for items of special significance. The nong was basically a box, usually stacked with another exactly the same and set on a base but occasionally placed separately.

Kalbi or Bulgogi Marinade for Beef, Chicken or Fish

This is my mother-in-law’s recipe and she’s a really great cook. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love Korean BBQ beef. My mother-in-law says that you can also use it for chicken or fish and that you can bbq the meat or braise it in the marinade. Versatile AND delicious!

For Kalbi. Kalbi is the short rib cut across the bone into strips. You can only find this cut at a Korean market but it’s worth hunting down. The secret is to 1) wash the meat carefully and then dry it because there are bone shards littered about on the meat and 2) sprinkle regular granulated sugar over each strip (the ways you’d salt a steak) on each side and leave to marinade for an hour or so. Add the meat with the juices to the rest of the marinade. Let it marinade for a few hours and then bbq on a grill. Yum!

For Bulgogi. Bulgogi is very thinly sliced beef and again, you have to buy it from a Korean Market. It’s great for a fast meal because you don’t have to marinade the meat for very long and it cooks up quickly. You can use Bulgogi for Bee Bim Bop or rolled up sushi style in Gim-Gahp or just eat with rice.

Kalbi Marinade

1/2 cup soy sauce (we use Kikoman’s and the brand of soy sauce does make a difference!)

2 tablespoons of finely minced garlic (use fresh and not from a jar please! Mash garlic with flat of a knife and then mince finely)

1/4 cup finely minced green onions (also called scallions). My mother-in-law julienne’s each green onion (after washing carefully to remove dirt) into about 4 long lengths, then minces this finely.

1-2 tablespoons sesame seed oil (the Asian variety. It should be nut brown and smell fragrant)

2 tablespoons sugar (white granulated is fine)

3 pounds of beef

1) Wash beef strips, trim fat and dry.

2) Sprinkle sugar on beef — an additional 6 tablespoons and mix thoroughly.

3) Combine rest of marinade ingredients in a large bowl. Add the liquid from the beef in sugar.

4) Dip beef into marinade one at a time and lay in a pan.

5) Leave to marinade for an hour or more refrigerated.

6) Cook on a grill until done. Serve with rice.

To examine any book or item more closely, please just click on image of photo.

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. Thanks for the recipe – so far, I’ve only purchased pre-marinated bulgogi. Really interesting side note about your husband’s family and his eyes. I’m Korean and my husband is of Irish/English stock. We have three kids and while they mostly look like me, our oldest has caramel-colored eyes. I could not figure out how he got them. I’ll be doing some follow up research for sure!

    • To Mary,
      Let me know how your Kalbi turns out! Everyone whose every had it at our house loves it. Caramel eyes … interesting that your kids have it too! Must be a Caucasian bloodline in both lines I am thinking!

  2. Kim

    We get beef rib meat (yes, old freezer-burned ribeye steaks, or if they go on sale) and slice them thinly. In the middle of nowhere, you can’t just buy it already done. It’s easier to eat than on the bone. We have a tabletop grill and we grill at the table with some store-bought and some homemade kimchi and other panchan.

    I’ve never tried making sushi rolls with the leftovers – looks great. Maybe next time we’ll have leftover meat….

    • To Kim,
      I’m not that good at rolling sushi either. We buy ours at the Korean market. Maybe I’ll give it a go too… keep me posted on how yours turn out! That will encourage me!

  3. Steven

    Looks like your husband & I are related. I think I can fill in some gaps. My ‘harmony’ {grandmother for onreaders} was a mudang in Kut shamanism. She was married {by arrangment made by families for purposes of keeping the royal bloodline pure} to my grandfather who was a Yi direct descendant. He had the eyes too. As do i. My harmony explained to me that the Korean government in attempting to adapt to this new world after being hidden so long, had decided that it was in the countries best interest to hide some facts. They just didn’t want to appeear ‘primative’. So old religions dropped. Kut ceased. Catholicism was adopted. Many things changed & were then considered taboo. One small fact that changed was about a visitor to our bloodline. Because the history had been changed this is where historians will try to argue with me. To them I say, his-story lies. This is her-story. My harmony told me that although he did not need to conquer this docile paradise kingdom, he did in fact use ‘Kogu-ra’ as a retreat (appartrently he got comfortable with our royal ancestors too). And even though history today may try to say it was Kublal that first overtook Korea years later, it was actually Genghis Khan himself who first “set tracks” there many years before forever leaving those eyes in our bloodline as genetic proof. The “Y” chromosone is there too. I am so very curious… does your husband have the royal thumbs too? Its easily overlooked but perhaps the upper joints on his thumbs turn backwards a little more than most people.

    • To Steven,
      Thank you so much for your comment. I checked my husband’s thumbs and they are normal but he said that our son has thumbs that go way back, almost as if they disconnect at the joint. I checked his out, and it’s true. The upper joints of our son’s thumb go back but the lower joint of the thumb practically disconnects to go way back. It’s kind of freaky. But my son doesn’t have the eyes. None of my kids do. My middle daughter also has double jointedness throughout — elbows, especially. We wondered where that came from. I am going to look at her thumbs.

      The other old wives’ tale is that the younger son always surpasses the older son in this lineage. It’s been true for the last three generations of my husband’s side of the family but I don’t know the history beyond that. Have you heard that too?

      So interesting! Thanks so much for sharing!!

  4. Steven

    I personally haven’t any brothers but it is true with my Uncles & Cousins in every case when I think about it. Very amusing.
    As well as backward thumbs you may find it true in the large toe also. I have one son & one daughter and they also have the thumbs & toes but have not yet shown signs of the eyes. When I was a boy my eyes were dark brown and have now changed to golden light brown.
    I feel wonderful at having an opportunity to have shared this almost forgotten information with you and your family. I feel its important to embrace the unique genetic ‘markings’ given us and also to pass the stories on to our children. Interestingly, I wanted to show my daughter Yi Dynasty celadon vessels and thru search found myself here! If your children do end up with the toes, don’t worry it may prove to be an athletic advantage. lol. It did with me. A professor of genetics once told me that there is a fine line line between mutation & evolution! It has been most enjoyable sharing with you. Thank you.

    • To Steven,
      It’s been such a pleasure for me as well. My husband’s eyes were also very dark, almost black at birth but lightened up as he got older. I will check on my husbands’ and kids’ toes too. 🙂 What fun to see Korean Old Wives tales to be true. It’s so nice to meet you. We must be distant cousins or something.

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