Book Review: Without You, There is No Us: My Time With the Sons of North Korea’s Elite by Suki Kim

withou you

Suki Kim is a journalist currently living in New York. She was born and raised in South Korea and moved to the United States when she was 13. Growing up, she had a strong interest (she refers to it as an obsession) in North Korea. As a journalist, she was given several opportunities to travel to North Korea. Suki Kim decided that visiting North Korea wasn’t enough, since visitors are only able to see certain parts of the country. She wanted to show the world what North Korea was like, from the inside. Suki Kim went undercover as a Christian missionary school teacher and taught English at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology: a school for the sons of North Korea’s elite in Pyongyang, North Korea. Suki Kim spent two semesters: summer and fall, getting to know more than 100 college age boys in North Korea.

I never would have read Suki Kim’s memoir Without You, There is No Us if it wasn’t for the fact that I lived in South Korea for a year and a half. Before finding out that we were going to live there, I honestly knew nothing about South Korea or North Korea. No one really “knows” anything about North Korea: it is a big question mark in our world. Even after living in South Korea for so long, I still didn’t know all that much about the North, until I read Suki Kim’s memoir. I was shocked by a lot of the information she divulges.

One of the most bizarre things that stuck out to me in the novel is that North Koreans believe that kimchi was the official food of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. I would eat kimchi all day, every day, if I could, but most non-Koreans don’t feel the same way. Most North Koreans believe everyone in the world eats, and loves, kimchi. This is just one “fact” that North Koreans believe that makes me wonder what other obscure bits of information they were brain washed with. Another interesting fact that I learned is the North Koreans believe the are superior to those of us who pay rent, college tuition, electricity, tax, etc. In North Korea, they don’t pay any of those things, therefore they believe that are the lucky ones. When the opposite is true.

Suki Kim not only went to North Korea to find out more about the country, she also went there to try to show the students, the future of of North Korea, that there is more to the world than what the North Korean regime allows them to know and believe. After clearing it with the hierarchy of the school, Lord of the Rings was shown to the students, as well as, Harry Potter. Movies that North Koreans may or may not have heard of before, but soon learned that they were important to the rest of the world. (There are very few movies North Koreans are allowed to see, most of which are about their great leader.) Suki Kim also tried to subtly tell her students that their “intranet” was different than our internet. She taught her students about Steve Jobs and Apple. She also used her Kindle  in front of her students, as often as possible, to get her students interested in not only America, but the rest of the world. She wanted her students, men who were studying to be the next generation of elite in North Korea, to realize that they were being lied to by the people they trusted most. She wanted them to ask questions, and form thoughts for themselves, things North Koreans are rarely allowed to do.

I am so glad I read Suki Kim’s memoir. Every single aspect of it is eye opening. I knew that North Korea was one of the worst places to live in the world, but other than that, I didn’t know much else. By reading Suki Kim’s memoir, a spark has been lit in me to find out more. It’s sad to know that so many people, even the wealthy, are living in such horrible conditions: without electricity, proper amounts of food and water, and even  weather appropriate clothing. I hope that, one day, the North and South become united again and that peace is restored to the entire peninsula. I can’t imagine what it would be like for North Koreans to realize that they didn’t win the Korean War. (Or that Michael Jordan doesn’t play basketball anymore.)

I was  given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

One of those most memorable experiences I had while living in South Korea was when I went to the DMZ (the border that separates the North and the South.)Seeing North Korea, and North Korean soldiers, was an moment I will never forget. Not many people can say that they have stood in North Korea, but I can. There is a small part a blue building within the JSA, Joint Security Area, where meetings take place between the North and the South (and the rest of the United Nations.) I was able to take a picture standing on the North side: truly terrifying.

Below are a few photos from my visit to the DMZ/JSA.


Joint Security Area


View of North Korea from DMZ

north korea

The closest I will ever get to North Korea


Standing “in” North Korea at the JSA (that is my terrified face)

Fit Snack Subscription Box Review November 2015


I received my box a little over a week ago and for the first time since I started receiving Fit Snack boxes a little less than a year ago, I was disappointed. Nothing jumped out at me and screamed, “Eat me now!” Let’s just get right into the box details.

fit snack logo

Breakout Protein Bars: This protein bar had peanut butter in it. I gave it to my husband and he said it was very, very sticky. Breakout Protein Bars are high fiber, high protein, and have no added sugar.

Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts: I received two packets of raw shelled hemp seeds. You’re supposed to sprinkle these seeds on yogurt, cereal, salads, etc. I don’t foresee myself using these.


Love Grown Foods Super Oats: There were two packages of oatmeal in my box. I had one for breakfast the other day. It was okay, nothing special. I’m going to try the easy pancake recipe mentioned on the Fit Snack information card with the other packet: one packet + one egg = pancakes. Yes, please.


Bite Fuel Protein Granola: As always, we get very excited for full size granola packages. This one has almonds in it, so I couldn’t indulge. Bummer.

AmodaTea Macha: I’m not a big macha fan, to be honest. This will probably just sit around. It is all-natural, which is always a plus in my book.

Green’s Best: I don’t even know what to do with this. I don’t understand why there was a lack of actual food in this box. What is up with all these powders?

Fuel 100 Electro Bits: These are pumpkin spice flavor, which is awesome. I can’t wait to try these out when I need a workout boost!

If you have never heard about Fit Snack, please check out another one of my posts about the amazing subscription box company based out of Colorado. I love how each box comes with new exercises (this month it was for your abs!), workout tips, and coupon codes for some of the snacks in the box.


Sign up for the Fit Snack newsletter to get some great promotion offers.

For your chance to WIN a free Fit Snack box, head on over to their contest page here. There is a chance to win every month. Enter today so that you can start snacking healthy tomorrow!

I was sent a Fit Snack box in exchange for an honest review. All of the options are my own. Thanks Fit Snack!

Book Review: The Very First Christmas by Jan & Mike Berenstain


Papa Bear is reading his cubs a story before bedtime on Christmas Eve. Brother Bear requests to hear about the very first Christmas. Papa Bear agrees that it is a good choice and begins to read from their Storybook Bible. The story begins with an angel appearing to Mary to tell her that she will give birth to the Child of God, Jesus. The story continues  with Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem and Jesus being born in the manger. Angels then appear to the shepherds and the three wise men travel to Bethlehem. The story ends with Joseph having a dream about an angel telling him to go to Egypt to avoid King Herod.

I did not like this Berenstain Bears book; it felt rushed . I would have liked to see a larger focus on Mary and Joseph and the night Jesus is born. There is too much emphasis on King Herod. There is no fluidity from page to page and the book doesn’t provide a creative way to look at the Christmas story. I wouldn’t recommend it for a child under five due to the fact that it isn’t a very engaging retelling of the night Jesus is born.  I didn’t see how the words were simplified enough for children to understand and enjoy.

Even though I didn’t like the way the story was laid out, I thought the illustrations were very well done. I can foresee myself telling my own version of the first Christmas while having my son look at the pictures. I don’t think this book will become a Christmas classic in our house. I believe the first Christmas is the most important part of the holiday season, but this book doesn’t portray that as well as it should have.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Happy Half Birthday, Jimmie!


Words Jimmie can say: bubble, mama,dada, sna (snack), mo (more), hi, bye bye, done

Favorites: being chased, throwing things at Toby (this is not encouraged), going to the library, dancing, bath time

Weight: Somewhere between 24 and 25 pounds. I suppose? His 18 month checkup is next week.

Firsts this month: Jimmie walked at 16 1/2 months; he went trick-or-treating for the first time; he went to New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Vermont for the first time.

Favorite toy: Leapfrog Fridge Phonics Magnetic Letter Set – keeps him occupied in the kitchen. He mostly plays with this that aren’t his toys, though: place mats, cooking utensils, Toby’s toys, pillows.

Hardest moment of the month: Realizing that we weren’t getting a teething break! The two year old molars are trying to push through. So far I haven’t felt or seen any.

Best moment of the month: Jimmie started to walk when we were in Brooklyn, NY. He had been taking steps here and there but he decided it was time.

This is going to be our last monthly update! Happy 1 1/2 Birthday, Jimmie! (Don’t worry I will still take monthly photos and post them!)




Hello, Mirror Friend!




Trying to get the brothers photo was impossible. Guess which child wasn’t cooperating?

Book Review: The Grownup By Gillian Flynn

the grownup

A fortune-teller, who really is a fraud, takes on a very difficult case for a client named Susan. Susan has two sons: one by birth and one by marriage. She has suddenly become frightened by her step-son. He has acting very violent since they moved into an old Victorian home that she claims is haunted which is affecting his moods and behaviors. She goes to the fortune-teller to hopefully find peace and to get rid of the so-called ghosts that haunt her house.

Told in first person narrative, by a character whom we never learn their name, The Grownup by Gillian Flynn is a fast-paced novella that starts and ends very abruptly. The novella starts off by allowing the reader to gain some background knowledge on the main character. She tells a sad story that makes the reader feel bad for her, even though she is a fraud. Once Gillian Flynn has the reader hooked, Susan comes in and the real ghost story begins.

The only other Gillian Flynn book I have read is Gone Girl. Since I enjoyed Gone Girl so much, I figured Gillian Flynn could do no wrong, even in a novella. I was right. The Grownup is a quick read but a good read. I finished it in about an hour, but it still has me wondering what happened next. That’s the thing about novellas: they’re too short and seem to end leaving you yearning for more.

Even though the book was short, I connected to the characters right away, something that doesn’t even always happened in long novels. Gillian Flynn has a knack for sucking the reader into each character’s life, like they’re old friends. This would make a great quick book-club read for October: put it on next year’s list. The Grownup by Gillian Flynn was originally titled “What Would You Do?” and was published in George R. R. Martin’s Rogues anthology. This is the first time is has been published as a standalone novella.

To learn more about Gillian Flynn please visit her website.

Order a book through Amazon or Penguin Random House, today!

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. All the opinions are strictly my own.

Friday Five

  1. I have been binge reading the last few Pretty Little Liars books by Sara Shepard. In the past week I have read the 13th book, Crushed, and 14th book, Deadly. I am almost done the 15th, Toxic. I just want to be DONE with the series. To be honest, though, these last few books haven’t been as bad as the previous couple. Maybe I have lowered my standards, but they’re readable.
  2. This week has been rough. Jimmie did not adjust to daylight savings ending, as well as, we had hoped. He woke up at 6 AM on Sunday and Monday. After those first two days, he slowly began to adjust. He is now back to his normal 7ish to 7ish sleep pattern, but I am still exhausted. My back hurts too.
  3. How weird is this November weather? Also, how weird is it that is is already November? It reminds me of the year Jim went to Korea and we had the most amazing winter. So amazing that on cold days I forgot to wear a jacket. I think today is the last day of the 70s. Seems like fall really is going to kick in starting tomorrow.
  4. Can you believe Gilmore Girls is returning to Netflix? It is a dream come true. Almost as awesome as Full House returning. I didn’t just find this news out, but I forgot to talk about it. Today, while researching the revival, I found out that Sookie (Melissa McCarthy) may not return. That would be sad. Come on Sookie, they need you! Honestly though, all I care about is if Milo Ventimiglia will play Jess again. And apparently, he is in. Rory and Jess forever.
  5. Jimmie is going to be 18 months on Sunday. Where did the last 6 months go? Didn’t he JUST turn one? We are moving up to the older kids library class on Tuesday. It should be an interesting transition. Jimmie was one of the oldest in the baby class. I hope he interacts more with the older kids. It was hard for him to play with kids that were just learning to sit.





Cookbook Review: Whitney Miller’s New Southern Table


This is my first ever official cookbook review! I am so excited to share with you Whitney Miller’s new southern table. I had so much fun looking through this cookbook and picking out a few recipes to make and try out. I have been in a major cooking rut lately; making the same meals every week. Whitney Miller’s newest cookbook inspired me to try new dishes and cook southern food for the first time.

What I love most about this cookbook is how Whitney Miller has a little blurb at the beginning of each recipe that explains why she loves it and/or a story behind the dish. I also like how I can cook almost all of the meals, included in this book, for both me and my husband and our 18 month old.  Another plus to this book is how many of Whitney’s recipes don’t require a ton of out-of the box ingredients. I hate buying spices and sauces for just one recipe when trying out a new cookbook. There is a huge variety of recipes in this book including: breakfasts, lunches, dinners, sides, meals for company, and desserts. Whitney Miller’s second cookbook is a must add to every cook’s collection.

I must admit, the recipes are time consuming. With that being said, they are worth the time spent preparing them. I spent nap times prepping some of these meals. I have found some new dishes to incorporate into my cooking rotation, but will probably save them for weekends. I don’t have a ton of time during the week to prep fabulous meals. I still have a ton of recipes to try out, but here are a few I have already made. You know how sometimes you buy a cookbook and then only try one or two recipes? Then it ends up on the shelf collecting dust? This will not be the case with Whitney Millers new southern table. I will be leaving it in plain eye sight so that I can keep cooking up some new, delicious southern food.

I tried four new recipes this past week. The first dish I cooked was Chicken Parmesan Meatballs (pg. 170). I made the meatballs at nap time (I baked them the whole time instead of frying them in the cast-iron skillet and then baking them.) I also made some of my homemade (pasta) gravy. We had the meatballs in club rolls. This recipe was a bit time consuming. The prep-time was worth it because the meatballs turned out great. We all loved them (including our little guy). I will be making these again. Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo.



Our favorite meal of the weak, which required the least amount of prep time, was Mozzarella-Stuffed Meatloaf (pg. 162). Let me start off by saying before eating this, I despised meatloaf. This recipe turned me into a meatloaf lover. My husband and I were blown away by this recipe. This recipe, alone, is worth buying the book! It wasn’t too hard to prepare and  it cooked perfectly. The flavoring was to die for and we ate way too much. Luckily, there were some leftovers for lunch the next day. The little guy devoured the meatloaf too. It was his first time eating meatloaf. Maybe he won’t grow up hating it like I did.

DSC_0134We did breakfast for dinner one night. I cooked up some Sausage and Egg Pie (pg. 32). This took a lot of time to prep. In the end, we decided there were too many grits and not enough eggs. We didn’t mind eating it (the baby loved it) but we ended up not eating the leftovers because we were kind of disappointed. I’m going to try making it with less grits next time and more eggs. I loved the idea of using grits for a crust, it was just too overwhelming for us.

DSC_0179 The final dish I cooked was Sweet Potato Cornbread (pg. 122). I had never made  cornbread from scratch before nor had I ever cooked in a cast-iron skillet.  Although it took a while to prepare, the outcome was great. Homemade cornbread tastes so much better than the Jiffy box kind. I served the corn bread with sloppy joes. The baby liked the bread so much and didn’t want to eat anything else. Luckily, the bread was made with lower fat ingredients; I didn’t feel too guilty giving him a little extra. I will be making this for future potlucks and when we have chili.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.