Tuesday, November 11, 2014

pepero day

11/11 is Pepero Day in Korea!  Pepero is very similar to the Japanese snack, Pocky.  The sentiment is similar to Valentine's Day in the sense that people exchange these little snacks and other sweet confections to their friends and loved ones.  School kids especially love it and will bring boxes and boxes to exchange with friends and teachers.
It's kind of a silly holiday that traps you into buying candy and pepero but the idea of exchanging small confections is still fun with a sweet sentiment.  I was curious about the origins of Pepero Day and according to wikipedia- "The original purpose of the Pepero Day was to exchange peppers with each other in hopes of becoming taller and thinner."  How funny!

In other good news-- we sold our apartment here in Korea.  One more thing to check off the list!  30 more days left!

Monday, November 10, 2014

a great weekend

The usual Sunday night sentiment is "ugh tomorrow's Monday" but last night it was more like "wow that was a great weekend."  There wasn't anything crazy abnormal and fantastic and I guess that's why it felt so good.  A lot of time together, a lot of whatever, a lot of warm chocolate chip cookies.

We spent all Saturday afternoon with Junseok's mom and aunt because his aunt so generously wanted to gift my parents and us custom hanboks as a wedding gift.  So many color choices and since they're all beautiful in their own way, choosing was difficult.  After picking color and fabric combinations for myself, Junseok and both of my parents, I barely remember what we picked and I can't wait to see the final products.  Junseok's mom suggested having our pictures taken wearing our hanbok along with taking some family photos and I think it's a great idea.

Saturday night was spent with a glass too many of wine and Sunday morning was lunch at a little Korean restaurant called "Taxi Driver Restaurant" (in English).  It was one of those hole in a wall but serves great food types of places, and yes a lot of taxi driver patrons.  I'm appreciating and enjoying spicy Korean food and plentiful banchan just a little more these days.

The remainder of Sunday was spent browsing at Lotte to use up some gift cards, bumming on the couch, cooking a yummy steak dinner and finally watching The Conjuring.  I wasn't impressed with the movie and actually became bored of it.  I was, however, still too afraid to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night though and thus waited until the sun came up :)  A perfectly normal and low key weekend.  They make the week seem worth it.  31 days left.  31!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

yep, this is korea

I took a small trip with friends to the East sea, to a beach called Chuam.  This trip was actually a while back, in September, while the weather was still warm in the day and slightly chilly by evening.  Isn't this beach absolutely beautiful?  The rocks and cliffs were stunning, and the water is that perfect crystal blue.  It is easily one of the most beautiful places in Korea.

I've been to beaches in Busan, beaches in the west coast and even Jeju, but I think this one is my favorite so far.  We went at a good time, late September, so we were one of maybe two other groups on the entire beach.  If you go during peak summer season, you'll be lucky to get a spot to sit.
Being that we had the beach to ourselves practically, we were able to build a fire at night, roast marshmallows, drink and just get silly.  My friends who had tents camped on the beach, but Junseok and I found shelter at a nearby hotel.  It was a great weekend escape from the city.
I love this area and if I'm ever back in Korea during the fall again, I'd definitely come back.

Monday, November 3, 2014

korean food : japchae

I'm not a big noodle fan, not even pasta.  I'd choose bread over noodles any time, any day.  But when I moved to Korea I discovered a new kind of noodle, dangmyun, which are made not of flour but of sweet potatoes.  The texture is chewy and the taste soaks up whatever sauce you put them with.

Dangmyun's most popular Korean dish is one of my most favorites, japchae.  Though Korean food is slowly gaining a presence in the States, I think the most well known Korean dishes are the meat based and bbq style ones.  There's so much other good stuff!  And japchae is one of them.

On two occasions I made it for friends and family at home and after the initial reservation (I think people thought the noodles resembled worms), everyone loved it!  I was so happy to be sharing some Korean food with them and that they enjoyed it.

I don't make japchae often, but it will be one of those dishes I'll for sure crave once we're living outside of Korea.  To get some more practice cooking it, I made it the other week.  As for a recipe, I loosely followed this one.  The basic steps are to cook each vegetable separately, season the noodles and mix well.  It's pretty easy, albeit time consuming because of all the vegetable prep.  I think japchae is so delicious and fits both Korean and American palates well.  We will be lucky to live close to Korean markets once we settle in NJ and I'm already planning dinner parties of Korean food.  Can't wait to share all the delicious things I've been eating the past 5+years with my friends!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

a day to celebrate

This past Tuesday was Junseok's visa interview.  We were up by 5 am and out the door by 6.  The embassy opened doors at 7:30, naturally I wanted to get there as early as possible.

Getting an immigrant visa has a lot of steps and a lot of requirements for each of those steps.  Normally I wouldn't have had any doubt that we wouldn't receive a visa today but since I've been unemployed for the past year, I was nervous about meeting the income requirement.

After meeting with the first man who checked our documents I thought for sure we would be rejected today.  He told us that my expected income would not count towards meeting the requirement and that I'd need to have a co-sponsor.  I tried explaining to him that I had already inquired about this to a help center previously and they had told me that I would be fine.  He didn't seem to care, dismissed my comments and told me "it's not the end of the world."  I could feel tears building and my hate towards him growing.  We were told to wait again for our name to be called.

We went back to our seat extremely frustrated.  After an hour of bad feelings, Junseok kept reminding me to stay positive and we both hoped and prayed that that first man was just a clerk and not the ultimate decision maker.  Another hour or so passed and I tried to stay as positive as possible.

There were about 20 people applying for visas today and one by one we saw many people get rejected.  If you are handed a blue slip, it means you are missing documents and need to come back.

Finally they called Junseok's name and for some reason, at that time, the whole room was watching Junseok speak to the consular officer.  Even in just a short interview Junseok had the officer laughing.  Gosh, he's so good at making people laugh!  We all waited and watched; waiting to see if we would also receive the dreaded blue slip.  I saw Junseok about to step away from the counter, blue-slip free, and he gave me a happy thumbs up.  I let out a big "yes!"

We were so, so, so happy and relieved.  And I have to say, we did feel slightly special knowing we were the first ones to make the cut today.  It was a long, tedious process but so, so worth it.  We celebrated with brunch at a cute place in a neighborhood nearby.

If anyone ever has questions about the immigrant visa process, I'd love to help; send me an email anytime.  My worries about moving and beginning a new life in NJ are slowly dissipating nerves of excitement are budding.

Friday, October 31, 2014

happy halloween!

It's not as easy to get into the Halloween spirit when living here in Korea, and this year was particularly the least festive yet.  It couldn't feel any less like Halloween today but I'm okay with that.  Next year will make up for it; and I can't wait for Junseok to see/experience Halloween in the US first hand.  I kinda think he'll have fun with it.

Everyone likes to post pictures from Halloween past, so I am too :)  I wish I had more on my hard drive but these two will suffice.  My mom always made all of our costumes for all 4 of us, year after year.  She was a big sewer.  Even though she made new ones every year, we always recycled them and thus we all took turns being the bird, robin hood, a king, a shark, a care bear, a robot... the list goes on....

When I entered 2nd grade I began to hate the homemade costumes and became extremely envious of my classmates princess, bride and barbie costumes purchased from the local Kmart etc.  I remember my teachers always loved the Webb family costumes, but I think they were the only ones.

Now I look back and can't believe how much time my mom put into making each costume.  I particularly love how most of them were just things and not specifically characters.  An ordinary blue bird, a typical king, your standard shark etc.  I wish we still had them!  They are so funny looking and perfect at the same time.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

baked donuts

I'm really lucky to have found a truly great friend while here in Korea and doubly lucky that we share so many similar interests.  One of those interests is baking.  We don't do it often enough and we are true amateurs but we have fun and sometimes if we're lucky, our work of labor is edible.
We made two kinds.  Pumpkin and chocolate glazed.  Pumpkin because it's fall and chocolate glazed because chocolate glazed always beckons for rainbow sprinkles.
Nola was nearby to help.
Truth be told, the taste was a little disappointing but it was fun and I'll have to give it another go when I have a better pan.  Yep, blaming it on the pan :)

Thank you for the pictures, Taya!

Monday, October 27, 2014

found a dog park in korea

A couple weeks back, through an internet search, we found a dog park located not too far from us.  I've never seen a dog park in Korea so I didn't expect much, but the idea of letting Nola run free, off the leash, is just so exciting (maybe even more for me than her) that I wanted to check it out regardless.

I was completely surprised at how big the space was.  And dogs; so many dogs!  Lots of breeds, big and small, freely running and playing.  It was such a rare sight to see.  We've taken Nola to dog cafes before and the moment you take her off the leash she's literally jumping on you in hopes that you'll pick her up.  She's scared to death and has zero interest in socializing with other pups.

But as soon as I took her off the leash at the park, she immediate sprinted away, freely and with so much joy.  Never in my life have I seen her run that much or that fast before.  I truly feel guilty that that is the case but space and especially pet-friendly space here in Korea is so severely limited.  Anyway, she had a smile on her face the entire time and I had one to match.  To see her able to play and socialize like that was the biggest joy.
That park is wonderful and they even have a swimming pool for the dogs.  We didn't get to swim because we came too late in the day when it had already cooled down.  Everything is well maintained and clean.  In the back of the park is a shaded sitting area with lots of tables and chairs.  It looked as though people come and set up camp for the entire day; either bringing picnic food or calling for delivery.  Next time I'd like to make a day of it as well.

The owner of the park charges $5 a person and $5-$15 depending on the weight of your dog.  He makes a point to take daily pictures and post them on their blog.  I love the one he snapped of Nola.  (first photo) She looks so happy, doesn't she?

When we settle in NJ, I know there will be several dog parks nearby, but I hope we can find one that Nola loved as much as this place.  To see your loved ones have fun-- that's the best feeling ever.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

It's been a while

I can't remember the last time I opened up Blogger and posted.  After a very long break, I've decided to jump back in again and start blogging about all the new changes that will be happening over the next few months.

For starters, my fiancĂ© and I will be moving back to New Jersey!  After 5.5 years residing in Korea, it is time to pack our bags, head back home, meet new challenges and begin a whole other kind of adventure.  I'm two-thirds excited and one-third nervous.  Even though the States is my home country and NJ is where I grew up, I feel as though everything will be all new and foreign to me.  Of course I've lived on my own before coming to Korea, but at that time I was an irresponsible just-out-of-college grad and this time around it feels like I have to be a real adult.  The kind that files taxes (on time), pays for car insurance and contributes to an IRA.  Yea... I know, I'm far, far behind to be JUST starting these things, hence the nerves.

But I'm ready to slip on my big-girl-pants and start tackling all the scary/exciting things to come.  In the next few months I foresee:  moving across an ocean, beginning a new job, finding a new place to call live (hopefully near NYC), making it a home, making and maintaining a budget (!), planning a wedding and all the little things in between.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Easy way to hang a pendant light

When I decided that my little kitchen space needed light, I knew a pendant light would look best; however when I shopped around for lights, I found that the majority had a base that mounted to the ceiling and required some sort of electric work (I assume?).

Since I have no electric work experience and know that even getting into that here would be way more of a hassle than it's worth, I found a way around it.  Sure, I'd love to be able to turn my light on with a flick of a switch, but I am not one to mess around with wires.