Jun Dishes

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Furniture and Life: Into 2016

PostPhotoShoot

I took some pictures of some big changes in my home as of late. Our home, mine and Davy’s and Noah’s and Sushi’s, which has changed in big and small ways and functionally too.

In our living room, we adopted a green leather double recliner sofa. A couch. But nobody here calls it a couch and so I’ve started referring to it less and less as one too. It kills me to do so, but alas, when in Belgium…

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The new green sofa is pretty massive and adds a big new color to the room, green, found before only in traces in the paintings hanging above it. Davy’s been wanting a “gaming chair” for a while now for his PlayStation fix. And though I don’t love-love this new sofa of ours, it stays.

For now.

And pictured above, truly is the state of our living on any given day. A small mountain of clean laundry needing folding, our coffee table covered with remnants of the day’s events, and Noah’s toys. Even Furby sleeps soundly amidst the mess. It used to be worse. There used to be bigger messes all the time, and mostly because of Noah.

So where did the loveseat go?

The loveseat is now in a part of the house which was once known as the dining room. Half the dining room is for dining and the other half is now basically Noah’s playroom.

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Our dining playroom.

According to Feng Shui, this is just where a “children’s area” should go so it all somehow works out I guess…

BaguaBlueprintOrange

The loveseat has already proven to be a success and quite a cushy spot for reading or Skyping with Halmuhnee or having a snack from our “real” kitchen, versus the kitchen in Noah’s restaurant right next door to the loveseat…

And at the kitchen in Rice House, there will be changes too. Not in furnishings, but in opening hours in the new year. Davy and I have decided that Rice House will be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays and Wednesdays instead of just Mondays and Tuesdays, simply because Wednesdays are half-days in the Belgian school system. Noah could use some more time with me, whether it’s to hang around in PJs or get dressed up and silly.

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And we can afford it, so we decided to go ahead and make the change. I believe our family will benefit greatly from the change.

I’m excited.

A place for everything and everything in its place, and here we gooooooo…veering into 2016.

There are some of us wishing 2015 never happened, or at the least wishing we could forget parts of it. Some of us are dreading 2016 even though it might have crept into our dreams once or twice, what life might look like in the new year. But we are still here. For whatever the reason we live another day and we are still here, and about to step into a new year together as a world.

That’s a big thing to have in common with anyone in the world, if you really think about it. If only it could be enough. If only it would bring more of us together.

The New Year’s Eve festivities in the city centre in Brussels are cancelled this year, because there exists injustice and sadness everywhere all over the globe…in parts we’ve never even heard of..but we, are still here.

Here’s to hoping 2016 unifies many who need it most.

Thank you for sticking with me another year.

Always dishing,

Jun

Here Goes Nothing

Windmills

This is the obligatory “jumping back into blogging after being MIA is daunting” blog. Especially since there was a once upon a time I blogged every day. When Noah was tiny and napped and he napped often, and I chose not to nap but instead to write. So “Here Goes Nothing” is less about nothing and more about everything. Lots has happened in five months, and some things have remained very much the same.

Rice House is one year, three months and twenty-five days old today. Happy belated birthday to Rice House. Davy and I are very proud of what Rice House has become thus far, and relieved that Rice House is officially debt-free and on its way to more greatness.

And proud of Noah. Noah starts back up at school on the First of September at three-and-a-half. He’ll be in the same kindergarten class but with a different teacher, and still right across the street diagonally from Rice House once again. At the start of summer he was still rocking pull-ups and feeling stressed about potty training but today he is fully-potty trained and also in his first month of sleeping in a twin-sized official big boy bed. The transition has been smooth and I’m grateful. I never take this kind of shit for granted because all around me I see parents struggling, couples struggling and families struggling. But making it. And sometimes not making it. Life is hard for everyone and it’s a different kind of hard in Belgium, than it is in America.

I look forward to seeing life through Noah’s eyes for years to come. Everything my eyes saw, growing up in Manhattan, is on a whole other planet compared to that of Noah’s life here. The concrete jungle versus some of Europe’s oldest landmarks. Windmills even.

Windmills

 

Such stories he could tell you about windmills…and Legos (link to video in case it doesn’t show on your device: Legos)…

Noah will have many many many more stories to come.

He is already very much a prolific storyteller in two languages, speaking more Dutch and sprinkling in perfect English whenever he wants. His newest word is congratulations and I can’t wait to teach him to use it.

Noah’s begun to memorize and understand Korean when he Skypes with my mother, his 할머니 halmuhnee. That is what he was taught to call my mother from the very beginning and their bond is strong despite the distance between them. I call her momz in writing but Noah knows her only by 할머니. He calls Davy’s mom Omi and her partner Patrick Opi. He calls Davy’s dad Opa and his wife Oma. Everything in its place and everyone with a unique identity. I can’t wait to for our next trip back to New York for my brother’s wedding.

My brother Danny, Jun Young 준영, who is marrying a young woman I once met as a young lady. Anita. But she’s all woman now and I’m going to cry a lot seeing them walk down the aisle in April. I will cry for their happiness and my dad’s happiness. My dad passing away at 51 nearly killed all of my family in different ways, but now we celebrate him more and cry less. Anita was there for my brother when my dad died and she’d been with him since. They are making it and on their wedding day I will probably bawl and then laugh and not be able to keep eye makeup on. I may have to go with just a natural look and see what transpires.

Because a lot can transpire “since last blog.”

Davy and I as individuals, and in our marriage, have come a long way we’re well on our way to hitting the five-year mark. No marriage is perfect, that’s just suspect, but there is no shame in our game and that’s all that matters. We fight and take turns being assholes to each other, and we struggle like everyone else. And we’re making it. Shit gets real. But we’re stronger than ever.

Plus I turned 40 in July. And there’s no going back. Not with that shit. I may not look old but I do look older. I’m more than okay with that. SPF for the win.

So when I get asked multiple times a day if I’d “go back on Big Brother” it’s like there’s a short answer and then there’s everything I wrote about in this blog so far plus it’s not the easiest question to answer. Maybe. Depends. Who knows? I have so much on my plate, some shit needs to be planned and some just done on a whim because spare pockets of time pop up.

I do know that I’m back to watching Big Brother again after a season-and-a-half hiatus. I’m enjoying most of it immensely. Big Brother 17 is the closest we’ve gotten to an Old-School BB in a long time. It needed to be said. I am enjoying BB17. Despite my horribly scathing and cringy judgmental tweets, I am actually. This doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive. And some people don’t get this. Meh. Who cares. The trolls always find me. Always. So I’m working on a back to BB blogging blog. And it will be a Power Rankings blog but of course my criteria have changed.

Would I trust this HG to babysit Noah for an hour or two?

Would I employ this HG at Rice House?

Would I double date with this HG (and their potential significant other)?

The double date thing comes up because people here in Belgium love to do it to the point of, really, and it’s something you can’t really avoid. It was something I couldn’t avoid last week…so it’s a new criteria in this Power Rankings. Would Davy and I go out for sacred free time with this particular HG and their date? Next blog.

Always dishing, Jun

The Tale of Three Croissants in Evergem

CroissantsTest

Sometimes I set mini goals for myself, stupid shit I can accomplish, so I can then reward myself. Big goals are great, but the little ones keep your happiness in check. Last week I actually accomplished one of these little goals and it turned out to be one of the best buttery breakfasts of my life, involving three croissants.

Anyone in my family tell you that I love a fresh croissant more than anyone else, dead or alive, in my family. I. Just. Love. Croissants. You’d think France would have the best ones, but Belgium’s got freaking fantastic ones, considering the two countries are connected in geography and war.

Anyway.

Ffter dropping Noah off at daycare last Friday, and on the way to open my place for lunch service, I managed to collect three freshly baked croissants, from the three closest places to Rice House. I wanted to taste-test them all at once and decided whose was best. So I did just that.

First, Croissy Annelies, which nobody actually calls it. Everyone calls it “de franse bakkerij” or as Noah and I call it “the French bakery.” They have a godsend of a playground, and small farm on their property, so it’s nice to be able to sit there and have coffee while Noah plays and has ice cream.

Then there’s Bakkerij Debacker which actually sounds in Dutch like “Bakery The Baker” because the kk and ck are pronounced the same in Dutch, and de is “the” and  bakker is Dutch for baker, and I could go on forever about this. But Debacker is the name of the baker who owns the bakery (bakkerij) and the whole big family is adorable, especially their youngest son who’s enthusiastic about just about everything.

And last but not least there’s Pistoletta, which is right on the square of the town center in Evergem, before I turn right to get to Rice House. Pistoletta is a very tasty sandwich shop that is also a breakfast stop and overall cozy soup bowl kinda place. The ladies run a tight ship and I admire them. And I believe one of the ladies used to work at Annelies for a very long time before jumping ship for the newly-opened Pistoletta. Scandalous.

So these three shops make up one of of my routes to get to Rice House.

Here’s a view of then (1930) and now (2010), of my view heading into the center of my town of Evergem (population of 32,000 that feels like 320 on any given day).

1930andNow

Heading into Evergem Dorp (Photo credit: Het Nieuwsblad Online)

On this route I’ll grab an occasional croissant from anywhere randomly.

Except last Friday when I got three:

CroissantsTestCroissants from: Left to Right – Annelies, Debacker, and Pistoletta

I know. The croissant from Annelies looks like it’s doing something dirty to the Debacker croissant. I’d wondered, while I stood in line at Annelies,  if I’d get the defective croissant when I saw it in the display case. Of course I did. It felt like the croissant was trying to punch me for eating it.

I took two bites at a time, from each croissant, left to right, comparing the texture and flakiness and the butteriness of their respective croissant layers.

The Annelies croissant was like a mouthful of butter and goodness with a light crisp shell and doughy-chewy inside. It was glorious. And the croissant from Debacker was crispy and flaky on the outside and layered forever on the inside, and butter was plenty. And Pistoletta’s croissant was super flaky and light on the inside and extra crispy on the outside, and definitely the lightest on the butter of all three croissants.

I reported back to my husband that night, and he asked me which croissant I liked best. I answered that if I was dying tomorrow and had to choose one croissant to die with, it would be…

Debacker

I now have to stay away from croissants after gaining at least two pounds last Friday. Then I can reward myself with something else…

Incidentally, when I turn right at the church (the same church our Noah was baptized in this year), to get to Rice House…

This is the then (1910) and now (2010):

1910andNow

Leaving Evergem Dorp (Photo credit: Het Nieuwsblad Online)

 

Rice House stands “just down that street from ING.”

How times have changed. Croissants are forever.

Always dishing,

Jun

 

Happy One Month Anniversary to Rice House

RiceHouseLogoFinalJPG

“This will never work in Evergem.”

“Don’t set your expectations too high.”

“People in Evergem won’t be into new stuff.”

This is only some of what I was told to my face, and what was said behind my back.

~

One month and hundreds of pounds of rice dished later, I’ve lost two dress sizes and some blood and hair and pride. Running the first-ever Korean takeaway and grocery in Ghent, in the middle of my own town Evergem, has been unlike any drug I’ve ever taken in my life. If you’re into that kind of high…

My husband Davy and I work together in the evening on the weekends Friday through Sunday. I run Rice House alone for both lunch and dinner on Wednesdays and Thursdays plus lunch on Fridays. In Belgium when you open an eenmanszaak it means you don’t have staff. You CAN have staff, but then it defeats the purpose of being a “onemanshop,” in literal translation, and costs are very high to implement staff in the first place here in Belgium. Employees are protected ferociously in this country, and it’s not a bad thing.

So we did and do most everything ourselves from construction to design and marketing and advertising, cutting each vegetable and slicing the meat, and even scraping crud off any secondhand equipment we purchased. Rice House is the culmination of some things old, some things new, some things borrowed and some things blue. RiceHouseToGo.com is a free WordPress theme, and we just paid $20 to procure the domain name.  We cut corners where we could without compromising quality or ethics. Prices at our “competitors” are insanely high, and we are trying to show everyone that it’s possible to put in the extra work and make money without raping customers’ wallets.

I like to refer to Rice House as my eenvrouwszaak, because I am a woman. There’s no reason I can’t say proudly that I’m a “onewomanshop.” So as a proud woman I opened Rice House, as sole proprietor. I put aside some of my pride, in little things, where customers came first.

Davy has years of earlier experience in the food and beverage industry, in addition to his abilities to work a forklift like as a docker at the Port of Ghent. Davy did not leave his position, neither at the docks nor at the union, just because we opened Rice House. Again, that would defeat the purpose of being recognized as a sole proprietorship. Rice House is mine. It’s not a corporation or a business, in legal terms, but simply a money-maker in a country where entrepreneurship and family businesses are encouraged and rewarded in different ways. It’s a part of living in a socialistic country. There’s no way I could have just set up shop and opened a Korean takeaway in New York in two months time, and with no bank loan to boot.

Yet here, it happened.

So Davy didn’t leave his job, and my momz didn’t stay in Belgium in some happily ever after, and it’s now been a month since Rice House opened its doors to the public. The first weekend and week, Davy and I were a hot mess. I did more things wrong than I did right, but I never gave up. I forgot things here and there and completely fucked up other times. I made no excuses but apologized when I needed to, even to myself after cutting myself all over my hands and even burning my hairline on my fiery stove. Suzy. Suzy the stove surpassed my expectations and does still.

I have only eaten in restaurants and having never worked in one I had no idea the power of Suzy. So I ended up burning my cute little baby hairs above my forehead that first week. Nobody knew though, because I didn’t shriek or let on in any way as the stink of burnt hair rushed up my nose. I burned some sauces that week too, and started cooking like a beginner. I realize I’m hardest on myself but still…

I made a shit ton of money Week One, but I feel guilty because I was not at my best. If I could, then I’d ask everyone who visited Rice House the first week to give me a second chance. Some have already, and it’s encouraging and not taken for granted. I listen to everyone and implement changes where I can. We received feedback that the “over-rice” style of our bowls was discouraging for those who worked through their meal to find “only rice at the bottom.” And so we changed our serving style and pushed the rice all the way to one side of our bowls so that the rest of the meal could fall next to it, ensuring more perfect bites in balance.

That first week I decided to change our opening hours. I removed Tuesday dinner service from our hours so that I’d have both Monday and Tuesday as two whole days off. It was one of the best decisions I’ve made to-date.

Then the second week…

Things got a lot better, because my mother was here visiting from New York.

MomzMeKitchen

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

Momz landed at Brussels International Airport just a few hours earlier, and we’d not seen each other in over a year but we were together again under Rice House’s roof. She’s the tortoise to my hare, yet she happily and heartily set to work as my sous chef for the next 3 weeks. She played with Noah and walked the 15 minutes from our home, Noah-in-stroller, and gave me strength at Rice House every day.

She told me, in English, “I feeling happy when I walking in here to Rice House.” And to think, my mother tried to take her life so many years ago in grief over my father’s passing in 2004. 10 years later and she’s a grandmother and kickass kimchi maker!

So, I realized Weeks Two and Three that I’d miscalculated how much beef, chicken and shrimp I’d go through. I’d thought they’d all sell equally as well, but the first three weeks the chicken and shrimp flew off the woks and the beef didn’t. Who knew? I didn’t. I don’t know everything, and this is a rare confession. So I made adjustments, including the decision to close for lunch service on Saturdays. It was a good idea, in theory, but a total flop. We’ve since only opened in the evenings on Saturdays, and I couldn’t be happier to have Saturday mornings and afternoons with my Noah and Davy!

Alas…momz continued to be flabbergasted every day at how much work iso actually put into Rice House. She’d never seen me do anything but bounce around as a fashionable corporate banker, and she certainly didn’t think I’d be wearing an apron and doing a mountain of dishes at the end of every night in my late 30s. To say my mother proud of me would be like saying I was proud of Rice House.

It’s more than about pride.

And then while momz was still here, during Week 4, someone left this comment on the first blog I ever wrote about Rice House (quite old):

Angry Comment

I share this because I share everything, good and bad.

To say this comment didn’t bother me would be a straight-out lie. But I knew it wasn’t a regular customer and so did momz. Momz was upset too, and it angered me that it affected my mother like that. It only fueled our fire and love of rice!

I’ve since added fresh coriander to the Rice House Bowls, giving each bowl an extra kick. Just like I did cooking in the Big Brother house, if a customer has a special request then I happily oblige. Less sauce or more sauce or sauce apart, or less rice or no rice, even some no vegetables requests. Allergies to garlic or this or that, are paid special attention to. I want everyone’s vote in the end…

I’m loving what I’m doing and how I’m doing it. I love my family. I love Rice House. I love my mother, who returned to New York this past Tuesday.

Thank you all for taking this ride with me!

Always dishing,

Jun

I’d Never Do That. I Couldn’t.

MomzMe

I’ve always been a risk-taker. Not for others, but for myself, a risk-taker.

Anyone who happens to come along for the ride gets to feel the effects good and bad.

Although she’ll deny it damn convincingly, my mother was also a risk-taker most of her life.

MomzMe

 

She left Korea for America, to give me a better life, and together owned a fruit and vegetable store with my father. I left America for Belgium, for a new life and to start a family, and now own a Korean takeout place called Rice House. Not exactly the same, but lots of risk-taking all over the place between two generations.

Just because you own a business doesn’t mean you’re rich. In fact, it means that you’ve probably invested most of what you had in life savings plus maybe a loan from the bank, and you’re now poorer than you were before. But you own a business! It’s pretty much the coolest thing ever after winning Big Brother and marrying Davy and having Noah, and still having fans who throw me love and support every day in different ways.

The risk is great but I choose to believe in my Korean heart that more often than not, the reward will be greater.

But…and I never thought I’d say this, my American citizenship is proving burdensome. More specifically, the IRS. I don’t understand people who say it’s “so complicated tax-wise” being an American expat anywhere, regardless of the country you were born in, because it’s actually not that complicated. You’re basically fucked. Any income must be paid in your country of residence, and also kicked back to the IRS. Even when I obtain my Belgian citizenship, I’ll be required to send a check to the IRS, plus…

I’m not eligible for a loan. As an American citizen you can’t get a loan in Belgium (and other EU countries I presume but I’m NO tax expert). As a Belgian married to an American citizen, my husband Davy can no longer take out a loan in his own country of birth Belgium. Crazy right?

The thing is, Davy and I haven’t taken out any loans since we’ve been married so we never knew we were ineligible in the first place. Belgians by nature don’t live on credit, unlike most Americans, and so we’ve always lived within our means. When I did my research before moving to Belgium, I didn’t anticipate opening Rice House or taking out loans. Maybe I should have. But maybe I was too busy packing to move here and getting shit translated at the Korean Consulate, and oh well.

And…it turns out Noah, by his American citizenship, is required by law to pay taxes in both countries as well. As soon as he’s old enough to work, he’ll have to pay taxes to a country he’s never even lived in let alone worked in. I guess that’s the cost for admission? Like a grand scale American Buyers Club without the drugs?

I’ve read articles recently, stating alarming numbers of Americans renouncing their citizenships and choosing to live abroad paying taxes where they reside yet cutting ties with the IRS. I’d never do that. I couldn’t. Give up my American citizenship?!

But I can see why some Americans would…

Nevertheless, Davy and I move forward counting pennies to the euro and we’ve made it thus far without a loan from the bank. We’d applied for less than $10,000, small in the grand scheme of starting up a business, yet we were shut down because of my American citizenship. Belgium and America are the best of friends that way it seems. They shut us out like mean girls.

Our accountant recommended something called the Win-Win Loan or WinWinLening open only to Belgians. It’s a 2.5% tax credit for a friend or member of the family who’d would loan money to me and Davy. This all sounded great but Davy and I laughed because we don’t have friends or family in Belgium, with money to invest in Rice House. I can’t imagine asking anyone struggling anyway, to lend us money. But if you do know a Belgian who’s got extra disposable income, then please do tell them about Rice House.

For now, I’m just literally watching every penny going into our business without compromising quality. I figure this is all just stuff to laugh about later. Right?

Always dishing,

Jun

 

 

 

Remember Things I Learned Along The Way

PeeCup

“I’ve done a lot of things to make money, legit jobs and downright wrong things. I’m not a bad person, but I’ve done bad things to mostly bad people. I’m not a good person all the time, but I am overall. I think your desk is nice and the wood very handsome, but the top of your desk is a wreck and needs organizing.”

This is what I basically said verbatim to my future boss during my first interview with him, for a job I eventually got. It was for a global asset management firm that was based on the principle of behavioral psychology. I didn’t know exactly what this meant when I went to interview for the job. I didn’t even know if I actually wanted the job. It’s terrible. It was 2006 and I was in a very scary place in my life. My dad was long gone, and I was attempting to return to Wall Street after taking a hiatus to run some shady business, and it was a gamble that would determine my future. I’d had a bad run-in once with the wrong people and I’d spent a night in jail as a result. It was all supposed to be cleared and never to be heard of again but I just wasn’t sure.

Interviewing past the first round for a global bank means you have to pee and prove you’re not on this or that drug, and your background and criminal and credit checks are run too. Depending on your rank going into a firm, the number of people you have to come face-to-face with varies as does the stringency of all testing. When I went in for that interview, I’d stopped smoking weed so my pee would come up clean once I got to final rounds of the hiring process. And I crossed my fingers that nothing alarming would come up in my background check. It’s the first time I actually felt nervous about it in my professional career.

After having spent the better part of 2005 running on adrenaline in the underground sex business, I was worried as fuck come that day in 2006. Nobody knew what I did all of the time except me, because I basically led two different lives for a long while. Exhausting, right?

But I decided I’d change gears again, and test the banking waters. Could I score a doorway back in after a gap in my resume, and possible tainted background check? I sat there that morning of my interview and my hair was in a bun, which it never was unless I was interviewing for a finance job, and here was this boss-dude sitting in his big leather chair.

He asked me right off the bat, “Describe yourself in a nutshell and then tell me what you think about my desk.”

I thought, what?! This wasn’t an actual interview question was it?! Where was the question about my strengths and weaknesses and where I saw myself in five years and shit?! Oh. But it’s the firm based on behaviors so I treated it, yes, like Big BrotherI answered boss-dude’s question and hoped he wouldn’t be too offended that I basically called him messy.

I got the job and loved the firm right away for its investing philosophy that there is more to money than just value, but in its psychology. I got to watch people for a living and then teach the principals later. I really did love working for that firm during my days and some of my nights.

This is the same firm that laid me off in 2009, and although many of my once-fellow employees harbor ill-will about being cut during that time, I don’t. I did briefly and then I embraced it differently, and probably because I had no husband or child depending on me. I was so very single at the time. So I made my peace with being laid off with the masses, long ago. I used my time to travel through Europe and Asia and ultimately to the Dominican Republic where I met my husband. I used my time to finally return to school and graduate magna cum laude, and to learn at least 10 things at the end of it all.

Of all the interviews of all the jobs I’ve ever had, that one with J. Whitcup was one of the most fun and conversational ever.

Rice House does not compare to a global investment bank or Big Brother on the surface, but it does behind the scenes and I’m excited to draw on everything I’ve learned through the years to choose a student-apprentice for Rice House. The good, bad and the ugly of any business is the best and worst part of it all. Wish me luck in finding the right match!

Always dishing,

Jun

Rice House: Updates

RiceHouseLogoFinalJPG

I picked out paint colors yesterday for Rice House. Let the painting begin!

Ahhhhhhh~

They will be the colors found in the Rice House logo. Bold orange and bold blue, and colors found in the Korean flag:

RiceHouseLogoFinalJPGI’ve never done this before, opened a food business, my own shop. I don’t know all the lingo but I base all my decisions on my own foundations, and with my husband Davy together on big decisions. All major ones have been made and now it’s just a waiting game and working and growing pains until Rice House opens its doors on May 1st.

I’ll be attempting to display something like this on May 1st, for show:

KoreanFlag - Sydney

It was presented at the Sydney International Food Festival last year and I’m excited to try and recreate it for the Grand Opening! Here’s a cheat-sheet on what each part of the Korean flag means:

KoreanFlag

Rice House in its entirety is about 600 square feet counting both floors (or 60 sq m), with a bathroom and ample storage on the top floor. The actual shop space is about 250 square feet (or 25 sq m). My conversions aren’t exact but they’re close enough because it’s easy enough to remember.

This is what I have envisioned for the ground floor space and shop:

GroundFloorPlan

Work continues at Rice House, and we’ve already removed one small wall:

Wall

Also, all the stickers and branding from the former sandwich shop are now gone!

I can now start from scratch with my own branding!

BeforeAfterOutside

But work also continues at home as Noah approaches his second birthday. It’s almost two years now since I live-tweeted my early labor and delivery of Noah (tweets all here). Time has flown but Noah’s grown, and he’s already practicing playing shopkeeper…

NoahShopkeeper

Noah’s been to Rice House a couple of times now, and he’s comfortable there as if he knows already that it’s “ours.”

Ours.

It’s why I’m putting a “Kiddie Corner” into the space, because I want Noah and other children to feel safe and special while they’re at Rice House. It sounds super corny but I mean it. Rice House is a business but it’s very much still real life. As such, the plan is to keep everything as simple as possible. This is easier to do in Evergem than in Manhattan.

I’d say one of the hardest adjustments I’ve had to make as a business woman, is to slow down. Nobody answers work emails at night and nobody breaks their neck to get anything done around these old parts of Europe. It’s refreshing yet frustrating at the same time, balancing my New York City killer instinct with diplomacy in patience.

So, simple it is.

The menu will consists of (sushi) rolls and (rice) bowls, and soups. There will always be a stand-by menu and specials-of-the-week. Here’s an example of a Rice House Shrimp Bowl:

ShrimpBowl

I’m so glad all those food photos I took are paying off, in what is now the Rice House Menu. Vendors have been chosen and bids are in, and my husband Davy and I have trust and understanding in each other’s different strengths. We are doing most everything ourselves and calling in professionals for what professionals do…

But Davy drew a map on which Rice House stands, and I created it simply in Power Point:

 

RiceHouseMap

 

It’s the cutest map I’ve ever personally made, and it’s good enough to give to the printer for now so he can do his magic. Flyers and stickers and posters are being printed very soon! Rice House will get a make-over before May 1st. Opening Hours coming soon!

My mother will be coming in May to help with everything and to spend warm days in the sun with Noah. I need momz here for this. I’m glad she’ll be here.

I’d like to thank everyone for your support. Stay tuned!

Always dishing,

Jun

 

I’m Still Allowed To Feel Like Shit

CoolNoah

I’m writing with a fever and runny nose. I got it from my son Noah, who’s less than a month away from turning 2 years old. This is him being cool while pretend-listening to nothing:

CoolNoah

 

He’s so cool that he’s over his cold in less than 24 hours, and bouncing off the walls like yesterday, while I’m wearing three layers of clothes and feeling chilly. I feel like shit and of course I wouldn’t have it any other way as long as Noah’s better, even if it meant my not sleeping last night taking care of him.

My husband Davy can see how shitty I’m feeling this morning and so he took care of breakfast and cleaned our kitchen and basically played handyman all morning. I’m glad he’s doing this, but I still feel like shit. But I always have this nagging feeling that I’m not allowed to just feel like shit anymore…

The thing is, I’ve actually stopped counting how many times I’ve felt like shit in the last two years because there’s too much other stuff to keep track of anyway. I used get myself manicures and pedicures on the regular too, and then eventually just did them myself, and now I’m lucky to get in some time to shave myself hairless around my vagina most days. I’m sure Davy feels luckier on those days too. Time to myself is a luxury. All moms feel similarly at some point if they’re doing it right.

The fact that I’ve been a stay-at-home mom makes me neither more susceptible nor immune to catching my child’s cold or stomach virus or conjunctivitis, than it does a stay-at-home working mom or working-outside-the-home mom or single-working-mom or any other existing hyphenated variation-of-a-mom. Some moms couldn’t imagine staying at home and would rather work because it’s where they thrive and what works for their life. Some moms couldn’t imagine leaving their children and going to work and so they stay home and thrive. And so on and so forth, with days we all want to drop everything and just cry too. All moms feel this way some days, some just more than others.

It doesn’t matter. It shouldn’t matter. But all too often it does. Real Housewives of Fake Lives is for entertainment purposes only…

When I was little I always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom when I grew up, because it’s what my mother was for so long. When I was older and single I still wanted to be a stay-at-home mom when I grew up, because on the one hand I had a lot of growing up to do – I knew it would mean I’d snagged a guy rich enough to keep me home – and also because I thought it would make me an actual grown-up. I learned a lot of hard lessons in my life and about my life, and so I’d always been wiser and more calculating than my actual years, but being an old soul in youth can be lonely and I say all this in plain English because it’s the easiest language for me.

I’m not saying I was some gold-digging-trophy-wife-in-training. In fact, I mean the opposite. Because I always made my own money, and sometimes more than many boyfriends in my life, I started to believe that being a stay-at-home mom meant more than just raising my child by my hand 24 hours a day. It started to mean that I’d be financially dependent on a man for whatever number of years I devoted my life to being a wife and mother.

The first year of Noah’s life, I continued to work from home as a freelance writer. I blogged about reality television and then wrote for a period of time for an interior decorating website. I held on to my need to make money and contribute. Around the time Noah turned one, I was no longer working from home for anyone, and instead I blogged here on my site and wrote furiously towards a goal of finishing my first book.

In two months’ time I’ll be going from being a stay-at-home-mom to a working-outside-the-home-mom, but I’ll still be my own boss. I’m hoping the transition will be smooth, and smoothest most of all for my little Noah. I’ve literally been learning and stumbling along the way up until this point using what my mother instilled in me maternally.

Belgian school systems accept children at the age of two-and-a-half, as the norm, and so at the end of this year Noah will be in pre-school. I’ve felt like my face was plastered on the Facebook walls of Ghent, as the stay-at-home mom that everyone was waiting to see what she’d be doing “once Noah’s in school.” Even stripped of any geography, I’ve been told on social media and even here on my site, that my staying at home was everyone else’s business but mine.

Rice House is my soon-to-be-opened Korean takeout place and it’s a nod to my dad, but it’s also an answer to the never-ending question:

“Are you going to be a stay-at-home-mom forever?”

It’s so fucked up all the pressures moms put up with, as if there’s one right way to be a mom. There’s no such thing! Every mother is different and sacrifices things big and small in her own way! We can swap out mom for dad in this blog too, if it applies to you. But men aren’t choked invisibly for staying at home or not staying at home with their children for the sake of making money.

Now that I’m preparing to leave these stay-at-home mom days behind to flex my entrepreneurial wings, I can write this. Because I never knew what it was like to be a mom. If Rice House had never happened I’d still be staying at home and writing. I’m still writing now and will continue to do so, for those who have asked…

I’ve been through so many big changes in my lifetime that I should look older really, but I have my mother’s genes and so I look much younger than my age. I’ll turn 39 this year. That means next year I’ll be 40.

Motherfucking 40 is around the corner and I’m trying to round that bend as slowly as I can. But there are no brakes in real life. When big changes happen you have to focus on doing the small things that you usually do every day, so you don’t get lost in all the changes. For me those things are writing and cooking and having sex with my husband and pretending to do whatever it is in Noah’s imaginary world, as much as I can.

Small things add up to big things, and not the other way around.

I just want to be able to feel like shit without feeling guilty!

Always dishing,

Jun

What Rice House Means to Me

RiceHouseLogoFinalJPG

Not many people outside my immediate family know this, but…

When I won Big Brother in 2003 and returned to New York, I told my parents that I wanted to invest my winnings in opening a Korean takeout place on the Upper East Side in Manhattan. It’s where I was living at the time and I thought there was a hole in the market. My parents freaked out completely. Freaking out was my momz thing and never my dad’s, so it shocked me. He’d become fearful.

My dad was still in the Intensive Care Unit at Beth Israel Hospital at the time, and he almost cried, saying he didn’t want me to open a business. He said it was too risky and that I should invest in real estate instead. But I knew what he really meant.

My dad was dying and we all knew it. His kidneys were barely functioning and dialysis was making his sicker. He just wanted to see me stable and back to my old life, before Big Brother ever happened, before he died. My dad wanted me to go back to work at Citigroup or any group comprised of bankers, and have a “steady job” again so he could die in peace.

Except he never said it like that, at least not to me.

I felt like a monster that day for making him worry, when all he should have been doing was resting and recuperating and staying alive. So I didn’t invest in the takeout place. But I didn’t go back to work right away either. I spent as much time as I could with my dad and my family, and months later I did end up buying real estate with my Big Brother winnings and I returned to work in finance too (more on this).

My dad passed away shortly thereafter, in 2004, knowing I could take care of myself but probably never considering I’d do anything as crazy as illegal (more on this). I can’t believe it’s been 10 years. I’m a different person but I’m the same person.

And now I’m finally opening a Korean takeout place – in my little Belgian town in Ghent called Evergem (Everville), no less! Rice House is happening and my dad’s not around to see it. But I can picture him laughing from heaven because I’m getting everything I wanted in the end.

I am his daughter after all.

This is what I’m starting with:

TakeABreakOutside

 

Where now stands Take A Break is where Rice House will open its doors on May 1st!

~

Every time I embark on a new adventure I try not to dwell on bad shit that’s happened in my life, but I do acknowledge that it made me who I was and who I am today. You cannot forget where you came from because nobody else knows but you, in the end. You owe it to yourself to never lose who you are, and to not listen to people’s advice to sell sandwiches AND rice. Um, no.

And for me and my husband Davy, Noah priority #1, and Rice House #2. At some point Noah will be “helping” me at Rice House and things will fall into place. I can’t wait for that day.

I’m lucky to have a man in my life after my dad, who believes in me wholeheartedly.  I couldn’t do this without Davy.

Always dishing,

Jun

 

 

Rice House: For the Love of Rice

RiceHouseLogoFinalJPG

I’ve been blog-silent for a week mostly because my Noah was plagued with a bad cold and pink eye. Life handed me a fevery toddler with conjunctivitis so I went into full mommy combat mode. Today on the other side of the week I’ve emerged triumphant with a healthy child, and I also happen to be the brand-spank-me-new owner of a Korean takeout joint!

What?

It all started a week ago, on Wednesday afternoon. Davy and I found out that a tiny sandwich shop called “Take A Break”, in our town square of Evergem, was looking for new owners. I never imagined I’d ever live in a “town” let alone blog about a town square, but for the love of rice anything can happen!

The monthly rent sounded too low and too good to be true. Plus, Davy attained all the necessary study and licensing for a start-up business way back when, “just in case,” before he ever even knew what Korean food was. By marriage I can also use the licenses.

The current owners of Take a Break are opening a bigger eatery next month in the city, Ghent-proper, hence their selling the smaller business. So Davy made some more calls and left some more voicemails so we could gather as much information as possible. My OCD took over.

Then that evening I was featured on a Flemish television program called Fans of Flanders and Noah made his television debut:

Noah ate through half the filming that day Fans of Flanders was here in my home including the Korean food I’d cooked in the segment.

~

Before the segment ever aired last Wednesday, I’d had a craving for Chinese food. I can make Chinese dishes just like I can make most dishes not necessarily Korean. But sometimes I just don’t want to cook! It happens to all of us.

So last Wednesday night I wanted Chinese takeout!

Here’s the thing…there is NOT ONE decent Chinese (or otherwise Asian) place we know close by (meaning 15 minute drive), but on top of it all most of them are closed on Wednesdays. But Davy and I drove on, with Noah in his car seat behind us, and searched for an open Chinese or otherwise Asian food establishment. Nothing.

We were about to head home when we got a call. If we were around, we could take a minute to take a tour of Take of Break! So we did. Davy and I saw potential. The owners told us that they’d leave behind most of the commercial appliances and display cases behind for pennies to their euros spent, because their new restaurant in the city was all stocked and furnished. With take-over and start-up costs so minimal I wanted it, but there were two other business-minded couples ahead of us, and both wanted to open sandwich shops. There are HUNDREDS of tiny sandwich shops in all of Ghent, but not one Korean food establishment. But we were third in line for the place.

I ended up making my own stir-fry and rice that night, and cursing the fact that I had to. Davy and I were convinced that one of the other couples would take the shop.

On Saturday we got the call that the first couple bailed, and the second couple seemed too hesitant, so if Davy and I wanted to open our Korean takeout…we could! Davy and I scrambled together, getting paperwork and accounting and finances in order, and as of today…

RiceHouseLogoFinalJPG

I am the proud new owner of a Rice House in Evergem!

It sounds insane but what about my life isn’t, really?

~

Rice House, a Korean takeout restaurant, will be open on May 1st, 2014.

It’s on “Library Street” (Bibliotheekstraat 6, Evergem) and just three bus stops away, or a walk, from my home. There is indeed the town’s library down the street. But there’s also the pre-school that Noah will be attending, in November, right across the street! I blogged about our first tour of Noah’s school last May…the one with the napping room:

NappingRoom

The idea of dropping Noah off at school and picking him up from across the street at Rice House makes my heart race it’s so cute.

Thanks to socialism and all its wonders, it’s easier to open a one-woman business in Belgium than it is in the States. How else would I have a (legal) business in my name in less than a week? This would never happen in Manhattan. But this is Ghent. This is a country based on the honor system and entrepreneurship in good ways and bad, and this last week proved very good for me. All signs seem to point to rice in Evergem!

If I can maneuver through Wall Street, be Head of Household in the Big Brother house, and mamasan in a whorehouse, then I’m up for the challenge of being Rice Queen in Evergem!

Always dishing,

Jun