Sunday, December 26, 2010


Well, Christmas is now past, and this one, unlike the previous holiday, Thanksgiving, was marked by a distinct aversion to partying and whatnot.  Amazing how staying home and doing nothing can become so nice to do!  The hubby has had the last 4 days off, so it has been nice to just stay home and sleep in.  Christmas itself was celebrated by calling home (albeit a day late, lovely time zone changes you know), it was nice to hear everyone (another plus was that two phone calls caught most of the family...great when everyone is in the same house!)  Now, on to New Years Eve, and the start of a whole new year which hopefully brings many good things!  And on the plus side, I can watch the ball drop in NY the next morning and not have to actually stay up til midnight!

In other things, this time off has been good for finishing peacock cross stitch that was my "Korea Project" is completed, only took 6 months!  Finished a pair of socks and a quick scarf that I really didn't need, but just liked the yarn, and started a sweater for the Hubby that I had to rip out and start over after discovering that I'd screwed up measuring the gauge!  Grrrrrrrr!  6 stitches per inch versus 5 stitches per inch is a big deal when you're talking about a sweater...the bit of the bottom I had knitted was skin tight!  Not a great look on a guy...oh well...only 3 days lost!

Anyway, hopefully everyone has a safe and happy New Years..we look forward to returning to the States in May (and missing all that lovely Minnesota winter weather).

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Welcome to December....

Well, it is now December, so I guess you could safely say winter is here, although I'm not sure it feels like it here.  We've had 2 snowfalls so far...the first one was gone by noon, and second stuck around til noon the next day...but I'm still feeling like it is still fall.  Supposedly the temperatures are supposed to take a nosedive next week to below freezing for a high, but I'll believe it when my nose freezes!  (I'm sure it will happen eventually, but I'm going to continue to live in my fantasy world where Korea doesn't actually get to Minnesota temperatures!)

Since the leaves have all fallen, and its starting to snow, just thought I would share some of the pictures that I took a couple weeks ago at Changdeok Palace in Seoul.  The colors of the fall leaves were gorgeous!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The adventure of the week.... which we managed to get halfway to the Pacific ocean.

It all started when one of my friends offered to drive me and another friend to Seoul so we could pick up some groceries not readily available here.  Not a big deal, an hours drive...none of us have driven there before, but we have directions from someone who has, so no worries, right?  Theoretically correct.  So, off we go Thursday morning, blissfully unaware of the journey ahead.  We started out fine...past post, get on this road, go past two tollbooths and take the exit for 88.  This was where we inadvertently got off course.  Apparently that first tollbooth that we just thought was a freebee at the top of an on-ramp was an actual toll (that we were supposed to stop and pay...ooops...guess we'll pay the bill) that counted towards the directions.  We didn't think so, and so merrily passed through the first (but actual second) toll.  Continuing onwards, we did see in passing an exit for 88, but the Korean highway system is quite different, and so we just said "eh, there'll be another one soon", and continued onwards towards the next toll.  And so, we did come up on the second (third) toll, paid it, and continued.  This is where we first noticed something was wrong....we just kept going and going, looking for the exit, but there was none, and I mean none.  Something like 40km of highway, with no exits and no place to turn around. 

Uh oh. 

Then, we finally, FINALLY, come upon exits...and they are to Incheon, and Icheon, respectively.  Unfortunately, I seem to be slightly dyslexic or something, or perhaps my subconscious mind really wanted to see all the lovely pottery in Icheon again, and didn't want to head back towards Seoul, and so I said "turn here! That's our exit!", and we're on the road towards Icheon. 

Remind me never to navigate again!  Anyway, biting the bullet and admitting we are slightly lost, we stop at a gas station, where the very nice attendant amazing spoke enough English to give directions (I can only imagine how much study that took...three years of Spanish class later, and I don't think I could give directions out of a paper bag), only we were not quite Korean roadway savvy enough to figure out how to turn around.  Anyway, since his directions included "go about 30km and see exit for Itaewon", we set off and managed to continue in the wrong direction.  This is how we managed to find out that Munmak gas station is really nice.  Lots of food courts and they had live entertainment there.  Amazing.  I love Korea just for that. 

Anyway, after talking to the information desk via interpreter we got directions to continue up the road and make a u-turn at Wonju area.  Ok, so once we start seeing signs for Wonju, I'm starting to panic a bit along the lines of "we miss this exit, there's not gonna be one for like 50 more km" or something like that, and so I think we were supposed to take the third exit, but I direct us for the second.  We wound up at the Wonju tollbooth with no ticket, getting glared at because we didn't have one.  Off to the parking lot next to the toll office preparing to be yelled at. 

The lady comes out of the office, and we get directions in her broken English and our horribly inadequate Korean.  Off to the office to pay and get yelled at.  Once we pay, we again try to explain that we are lost and how do we get back to Seoul.  They were quite amused to find out we were from Uijeongbu, and wound up in Wonju, and managed to miss Seoul entirely. Anyway, we apparently looked incompetent enough that the manager of the office sent one of the office staff with us to direct us how to turn around and come back through the toll!  And it was a good thing they did, because, unlike the States, there are no interchanges where you just get off one exit, go over the bridge and get back on the highway in the opposite direction.  Anyway, once we'd managed to turn around and drop off our guide back at the tollgate, we head back (in the right direction), and did indeed managed to come up to Seoul.  This concludes the first 6 hours of the "lost in Korea" saga.  Incidently, these were the most entertaining hours of the whole trip.

The last two hours were just frustrating, and definitely not as amusing as the first six.

So, now in Seoul, which is a giant city, with all the traffic and such that goes along with a giant city, we proceed to head towards the Han river.  Big river, can't hardly miss it.  And we liked it so much that we drove over it about 6 times in search of the base.  Back and forth, with numerous "oh, shit, we probably should have taken that turn instead" as we drive by it, and cursing the bus lanes in the middle of streets that make left turns impossible.  We finally made it to Itaewon with the help of numerous phone calls  to both American and Korean ladies for directions and translations, at which point our driver was at the point of tears realizing she finally knows where we are and how to get to post.  Five minutes later, we are there, and elect to take the bus back home, and bring someone who knows how to get there and home back with us the next day to pick up the car. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Rice Festival

This last weekend we attended the annual Rice Festival, in Icheon.  While definitely not an adrenaline rush by any means, it was a fun weekend activity.  There were performers of both traditional and modern music and dance (it was rather amusing to see a bunch of younger guys in traditional costume doing break dancing, let me tell you!), educational displays, historical displays, traditional crafts, and food and goods vendors all over the place.  For me, the best part about it was the performers in the traditional costumes and performances, as it was a chance to see something different that was distinctly Korean.  Only thing that I didn't like about it was they had the P.A. system turned up so loud that you could not hardly stand to be anywhere near the performers to see them, at least not without endangering your hearing!  Overall, I thought it was an enjoyable day.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Seoul City Bus Tour

Went on the Seoul City Bus tour today to get a look at the city over all, and to take note of cool spots to visit.  And there were quite a few.  A hike up Namsan Mountain is a must, and there were some tantalizing glimpses of palaces as we went by.  Driving through some of the neighborhoods we've already visited a little was enlightening also...amazing what happens when you walk just one or two more blocks.   Anyway, no pictures as it is practically impossible to get good shots through a vehicles windows, but look for more posts as we go visit places that the tour pointed out.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Deoksugung Palace

This Tuesday we visited Deoksugung Palace in Seoul.  Horribly easy to get to, right off the City Hall subway stop, and only 1000won admission, it is a nice, easy, and cheap afternoon.  The grounds are very nice, and the buildings are cool, and conveniently explained in both Korean and English, so we actually were able to know what we were looking at.  There is also an art museum within the palace grounds, but unfortunately it was closed for remodeling or something.  The Rodin museum down the street was also it just was not my day to indulge my Art major past.  Anyway, here are a few pictures from the Palace.

 The main receiving hall...there is a picture of the interior farther down.
 A water clock that was removed from a building that was demolished due to construction or modern streets and whatnot...the price of progress.
 Interior of the receiving hall
 Part of the changing of the guard ceremony outside the main gate to the palace grounds.
 One of the walkways on the grounds.
Pretty much a random, but pretty, building.  I'm sure it had a function, and a plaque explaining said function, but I don't remember seeing it...its probably explained in the brochure tho.  Might have just been an entrance to the compound or something.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Soup Bonanza

Since it is now seriously fall, I feel free to indulge my soup habit.  Colder days equals soup all the time right?  Unfortunately, I have a tendency to make seriously large pots of it.  Seems I need to buy a large freezer and a bunch of plastic storage bowls when I get home, since my husband and I usually can't eat all of it in the space of three days.  Oh well, they make wonderful lunches to take to work or whatnot...they usually don't thaw out by lunch, so you don't need to take a separate cooler pack with you...a pint of frozen soup will keep anything else in your lunch bag cold, I guarantee it! 

The first soup of the season was a nice vegetable beef stew, and here's the approximate (since I didn't measure anything) recipe.  Keep in mind that this is a mostly vegetable soup, with just a bit of beef in it.  Feel free to adjust.

Vegetable Beef Soup:
1 pound stewing beef (I bought the already cut up stuff, but if you get a roast, trim the fat as you cut it up), Diced
1/4 of a good sized cabbage, diced or shredded
3 carrots, diced
3 potatoes, diced
1 1/2 onions, diced
1 15oz. can diced or stewed tomatoes
1/3 bag of frozen green beans
Water or Broth...homemade, prepared (check salt content), or bullion cubes or bullion base (I used Better than Bullion soup base, the chicken broth kind since it is what I had on hand, usually stock the Vegetable base variety)
2-3 Tablespoons olive oil to brown the meat
salt, pepper, garlic powder, parsley to season soup

Brown the meat in the oil first, seasoning a bit with salt and pepper (go easy of the salt if using prepared broth), then add the the cabbage, carrots, potatoes, onions, and canned tomatoes.  Cook for a bit, say 3-5 minutes, then add the water or broth to cover everything in the pot with about an inch to cover.  Add your bullion cubes or soup base if using to to add just a couple now and add more later if you think it needs the extra flavor kick.  Bring soup to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about an hour.  Add the green beans, and season with some pepper, garlic powder, and parsley.  Simmer another 30 minutes and taste, adjust seasoning if needed (now would be the time to add any more bullion if you think you need it, or if you think you need more salt).  If you added any spices, cook for about 15 more minutes to let the flavor blend a bit, then serve, preferably with a salad and some nice homemade bread.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Korean Dining Adventure

After 2 months in our apartment, we finally managed to get up the nerve to visit the galbi restaurant that is right next to our complex.  We, plus 3 other couples (easier to be the obvious Americans when you're in a large group, don't ya know) managed to get ourselves installed in a traditional Korean dining room.  Welcome to sitting on the floor and no forks in sight...learn to use chopsticks or die of starvation.  Anyway, the restaurant came highly recommended by a friend, so I, having been coached by said friend, managed to convince the waitress that I spoke at least some Korean by ordering galbi, bap, and the ten course side dishes.  Oops...poor woman trying to get me to understand things she was asking...and I still don't know what she wanted half the time.  More incentive to learn the language. 
Anyway, the food was amazing...galbi is a sort of tenderized beef that you, yes you, grill at your table on coal grills that are set into your tables.  After you order, they bring a large cast iron pot of hot coals to your table, insert them into the opening, set the grill on top and attach the venting system.  Then, out comes the meat (ordered by weight...we got 250g per person, which seemed to be a good amount for everyone) and the waitress very obligingly put on the grill for us.  By this time I'm sure the "oh, no...some more people that have absolutely no idea what they are doing" attitude kicked in...we would have figured out that we were supposed to cook it since they left the scissors and tongs on the table, but they were very attentive and came back often to check the meat.  Good service, what can I say. 
Served with the meat, we got a multitude of different side dishes ranging from potato salad, a lettuce salad, various veggies of the Korean variety, a soup, and a few baskets of lettuce with which you eat the meat you are now cooking.  No plates involved, by the way, so the nice damp towels they provided were greatly appreciated.  For those of you with germ phobias, you may want to avoid the traditional restaurants, as they are all generally communal eating...all those sides come in their own bowl, and everyone at the table just takes as much as they want, generally using their chopsticks.  About the only thing that is designated yours is your bowl of rice and your drink.
Also, a word to the wise, you will be asked to quiet down if you get too if you have a large group, you might not be able to hear the other end of the table very well, but oh well...when in Rome, don't make the natives mad.  (And before you ask, no we were not drinking alcohol...this was strickly a Coke and sparking cider party).
Looking back on it, I do believe they tailored the sides to us...there was not a speck of kimchi as I know it on the table...which is sad, because as we were leaving they passed us with some of the spinach/chard kimchi on the way to another table that looked good...and nothing horribly spicy.  All in all, it was a great evening, and I am very happy we did go there, and would recommend it highly.  Everyone needs some traditional Korean dining.

Monday, October 4, 2010


Well, fall is certainly living up to the hype here in Korea.  It is absolutely gorgeous, sunny and cool with highs in the 70's, lows in the 40-50 range.  The only unfortunate part is that sometime during the hot and sticky summer I lost my 'Minnesotan-ness' and have turned into a Floridian (no offense intended).  It is 70 degrees outside, sunny, and I'm wearing a jacket because I'm, horror of horrors, cold!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Welcome to the new world...

Well, it is official...I am now living in the 21st century.  I have now joined the millions of people writing interesting (and uninteresting) personal online diaries to be enjoyed by the mass public.  Perhaps I can contribute something interesting, educational, or humorous...