Winter break- quick and dirty

Winter break was awesome. Two weeks back on work schedule and I think it’s time to finish my winter break segment. Otherwise I might start want to go back on break…. ūüôā Last weekend Wyll and I went on a foot search for the Dolmens. It’s a 5 km walk which isn’t that far. We went the wrong way and now have a map and different expectations for day trips. ūüôā Here are some pictures from that trip!

Did I mention that we never made it to the dolmens and that our short walk lasted six hours… ? Oops. ¬†ūüėÄ

So we also took a day to enjoy Korea! We study history and architecture at¬†Gyeongbokgung Palace, exiting from the Subway we were also invited on a free English guided tour! Our tour guides Linda and Lola were very knowledgeable and much younger than I had thought. They spoke excellent English and were in middle school. They knew many dates and¬†explanations for different kinds of architecture. We even got to talk about Blue House (slipped into a little political talk!) and the¬†¬†Folk Museum’s use of blue tiles in their roof. How dare they!

In the palace area is also the Folk Museum which was lovely. They also have an exhibit on display that showcases wedding traditions in Asia. It was beautiful. All the pieces were donated- it was so awesome. Unfortunately, they had a no pictures rule that I observed and no postcards of that exhibit for sale. Afterward, we headed to the closest area for lunch which was Insa-dong Gil, a kind of touristy traditional neighborhood. It was a lot of fun, even Wyll enjoyed shopping which for me is a big concern (like is he going to have fun with this?). And at the end of however many more hours of shopping, he convinced me to go to a massage- it was heaven! What a sweet end.

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Seoul part 2

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Maybe we would have gotten there faster with wonkwang power!

So, the second day was spent worrying about the subway. We walked to the hub of Itaewon and looked for Vatos, a hot Mexican restaurant with wild margaritas. Down a skinny road, counting the shops and mini roads to find the right place to make a right turn. Did I say right? I meant left… Luckily the right turn was a quick dead end. We turned around dodging motor cars, mini trucks and motorcycles. Sadly what we found was closed. The door was open but on one was home. We agreed to have hot dogs.

(I think this was the moment when we decided that the trip was a wasted one. I didn’t put in the ARC request for a new ID. And our first day felt like a waste of time and now there were no amazing restaurants open in Seoul. We had started the day by walking a mile or more in the wrong direction. Dinner the night before was a bust- we looked for Greek, we got really excited about Greek- we ended up eating at a chain that served us a¬†mediocre¬†fried shrimp and chicken platter ¬†and FROZEN seared tuna.)

We moped around the back alley looking for something. Really we were heading out to the street to surrender ourselves to Outback Steakhouse- however this was very much like the establishment we ate at the night before. We saw a sandwich board it read “The Alley: Gallery, Restaurant , Cafe”. Okay we glanced at the menu- has to be better than frozen fish.

It was phenomenal!

We had wine (from Chile!), a creative Caesar salad (with black olives and balsamic), incredible lasagna (mucho ricotta cheese!). We had an excellent time. Wyll and I talked about people and home. We laughed at the future and basked in happiness. It was an excellent way to let go and breathe.

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Not the most flattering picture but it was tasty!

After we were fed and properly watered, we headed over to find What the Book?, the only all English bookstore in Korea. We spent a good block of time there and found some really wonderful reads. Yes, we got a Korean language book! And cookbook, along with two history books (France and Language- both anticipated and showing to be good reads) and a Korea Rough Guides. Cashing out we took our books over to Starbucks where I got my first caramel macchiato in what felt like years. I studied up on Korea. I read my new language book and actually perused the cookbook. It had been covered in plastic at the store. I looked at Korean foods I would want to eat! Oh man, Grace was in trouble. I was going to be speaking her language and eaten her food in no time! I think I deserve another caramel macchiato, thank you very much!

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Wyll after a long day at the Suncity Hostel

That idea (another coffee) was quickly voted down… We headed back to the hotel to drop off the heavy stuff and out to Dongdaemun, a shopping mega district. What were we thinking? It was fine. We took the subway like pros and didn’t get lost. Of course, we were very careful and used our smartphone app. Our first challenge was finding our way out of the subway. My biggest fear was that we would end up in the homeless section of the sewer system. While I don’t know if these are real, I have seen them on many shows from Law and Order to Bones. I pretty sure even Batman has sewer people. I think it was to our¬†disadvantage¬†that we were shopping at night. I might not have been scared with the sun on the surface.

During the trip I never¬†successfully shopped underground.¬†¬†Someday, soon I’m thinking, I will. We got very turned around and walked the place several times. We found an information booth with English speakers. While probably not uncommon it was a very friendly and welcome sight. We got directions to an ATM from our branch and were told that a jimjilbang (sauna and hot tub) was in the third level of the basement of the same building. Leaving the booth we crossed the street in the wrong direction and had to immediately turn around.

Let it be known that separately, Wyll and I are great with directions.

While the ATM charged us a 1,000 won fee, the building had a jimjilbang in the basement and Wyll was delighted. He gave me a large sum of money and told me to spend it. I left him with my coat, gloves and other bulky belongings. Two floors of women’s clothing, one floor of handbags and headbands, one floor for men. I took the elevator to the top (where the movie theater is) and noticed that many of the floors were closed or under repair. Awkwardly for me, the women’s sections were like Forever 21. Yes, it is a store that I hold near and dear but sadly it is for teenagers. Korean teenagers are¬†typically¬†much smaller than their ten years older American counterparts. Korean fashion is something that I love, so I had no problem with looking at everything many times. Pearls and¬†rhinestones¬†cover sweaters, dress collars, handbags. Clothes are fuzzy, silky,¬†gaudy. ¬†Leggings¬†are currently the only kind of pants! Giant sweaters are worn as dresses. Korean fashion is is also covered to the neck and long sleeves while skirts barely cover your butt. ¬†I was tempted to buy a free size (one size fits all) dress but the last one didn’t fit so I stood my ground.

There was also a fantastic gate. Dongdaemun means East Gate, it is very lovely and after several tries we got a photo in the dark that wasn’t to blurry.

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Seoul part 1

Winter break was not terribly long and yet full of surprises. We didn’t end up doing what we had planned. Instead we made a spur of the moment decision and took the early bus to Seoul. There was one rest stop- Wyll picked up some steamed Korean sweet potatoes (which were amazing) and I got Dunkin’ Donuts and coffee. I ate many of the sweet potatoes. ūüôā

We journeyed to The Immigration Services Office in Seoul only to discover you have to go to your county office in my case: Jeonju. ¬†Since Jeonju only offers a snow activities, we ditched that plan. (To quote the Genie from Aladin ‘boy, do I feel sheepish.’)

So, we are in the big city. Ready for action and fun. First we needed to find a place to sleep at night. WHAT!?! I hadn’t booked it before we left. Oops. ūüėÄ WHAT!?! And the phone is almost out of batteries!

We left not entirely in a slight panic in search for the famed PC Bang (pronounced P-She Bong). Interesting that there were none in the direct vicinity of the government office. We walked eyes peeled for a computer with internet. When we found one Wyll had the know how to get a computer. We searched for hotels and hostels. Veto-ing the others suggestions. Finally Wyll gave in. We got a cheap hostel 50,000 won a night 2 minute walk from the subway station and one stop from Itaewon, beloved international district of Seoul.

Seoul has a very¬†efficient subway system and since we had already taken it to the immigration office we were pros. ¬†Who needs to look at the map again? Not us. That’s for sure! I mean us!¬†Definitively¬†us! There are so many lines that there is a brown line and a light brown line. There are like 16 lines. WHO KNEW?

Once we realized how off track we were, it was time to have a juice, eat another donut and watch animals-made-out-of-donuts-eating-donuts commercial. I mean they were light and funny. For example, a cat ate a cruller and became a lion!

I think in Seoul it only takes two lines to get anywhere you want. So, once we rested it didn’t take long to get to the hostel. We were greeted by Charlie Brown. (Sorry, I never managed to get photos.) The rest of the night was boring in¬†comparison. The rest of the trip however was not!

 

Winter break!

Winter break is finally here. Tomorrow we hop the bus to Jeonju to run some errands and make our way to Muju resort! So far our break has¬†consisted¬†of lounging around the house finishing seasons of various shows- NCIS, CSI, Newsroom, the Sarah Connor¬†Chronicles… ect. Yesterday we hit the local scene for some winter fun. We walked the wall (even though we weren’t suppose too!), I fell really hard on the packed ice, so we went to coffee. Wyll left me at the coffee shop and went to get asprin. He came back with drugs and a bruise patch. ūüôā This patch I’m wearing on my elbow has created a dark blue fuzz and will not be removed. The asprin are huge! Anyway we got some photos. Some are from a brisk walk on Saturday, most are from the Moyang Fortress. Enjoy!

 

There is a funny fact at the coffee shop:

1668 Coffee replaced beer as New York’s favorite breakfast drink!

 

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Kabocha Squash Soup

If I learned anything last year (2011) it was making soup. While I was working at Bloomfield Farms, I had mountains of produce to play around with. I ventured into all sorts of veggie dishes from stir frying to soups. One of my favorites is a squash soup that uses lime and cashews. You can find the recipe here. When I saw the squash at the market (and with the help of the recent snow) I thought SOUP!

It might have been easy to create the same soup again, however I like a challenge so I set off to create lunch in under an hour with only the thing we already had in the house.

Total ingredients include:

3 baby Kabocha Squash- cut in half, with the insides scooped out

2 yellow onions – one quartered, one chopped small

1 apple- chopped small, with peel, without seeds and core

handful of peeled garlic cloves

salt,¬†cayenne pepper,¬†cinnamon,¬†Bragg’s liquid aminos

Plenty of Water

First boil water with squash, quartered onion and salt. I was hoping to use boiling water for broth but I ended up throwing out the remaining onions and water. Once squash is soft and cooked put in bowl of cold water to help separate from peel. Put yummy goodness in bowl and set aside.

Do a quick rinse of your pot and fill 1/3 with water, in the vicinity of two quarts. As you bring to a boil add ¬†chopped onion, apple, garlic, a dash of cinnamon, a dash of cayenne, and a squirt of Bragg’s probably 3 Tablespoons or less. Cover. Let it boil and cook all the veggies. When soft add squash and smash everything together. Enjoy hot!

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