06 November 2011


So this year's batch of apple butter has arrived!

I did it a bit different this year... I don't have a slow cooker here in Korea (or an oven for that matter), so I had to use a stove top method. I used the ratio of ingredients that I used the for the slow cooker method, but this year I added fresh ginger and some green cardamon - since G. isn't here to complain about them. I started out with a low fire until the sugar pulled some of the juices out of the apples. Once I didn't have to worry about burning (as much), I turned the heat up and got a nice boil going. Stir, stir, stir... It cooked down for about an hour and a half. Then I pulled out the cardamon pods, ran an immersion blender through it to smooth it out, and ladled it into jars. Boil the jars for 15 minutes and...

Voila, applebutter! I had to stir it at least every 10 minutes, but I have to say... totally worth it!

There's nothing like fresh, warm applebutter!

25 October 2011

Jeonju Bibimbap Festival...

 ... really an excuse to see two of my favorite people...

They really aren't creepy, I promise!
This weekend I went to Jeonju, Jeollabuk-do, South Korea, ostensibly to eat bibimbap. It was after all the annual festival celebrating this awesome food... and it really is an awesome food - I've yet to have an iteration that I haven't liked, though some do shine brighter than others. And I did eat bibimbap. And it was tasty (the best I've had so far, in fact).

Festival bibimbap
However, I also got a tour of some of L. and B.'s favorite places in their current hometown. First we hit the Hanok village, where the bibimbap festival was being held, and the displays of historical iterations of bibimbap were impressive...

But we were all pretty hungry, so we moved on to the real thing - and as stated above, it was super tasty. After we were all fully satiated, we browsed around the Hanok village a bit more. There were lovely booths with crafts and food. But there was more to be crammed into the 27 1/2 hours I was in Jeonju, so we wandered over to the Gaeksa - a shopping district a short walk away from the Hanok village.

B. perusing the offerings in the Gaeksa
The Gaeksa is a wonderland of retail delight, but I managed to resist temptation until we got to Hot Tracks, a stationary store, where I succumbed to the lure of office supplies and scrapbooking necessities. What can I say, they had my favorite pens in colors I didn't, and a box in a box (which has become my desk organizer), and cool fabric tape that I needed to add to my scrapbook of Korea. The little journal was probably unnecessary, but I have a hard time resisting quad-ruled notebooks.

The night was still young and we were getting hungry again, so after a quick break to let the puppy out at home, we moved on to Chonbuk, which is the district next to Chonbuk National University, where I was introduced B.'s favorite Korean food (maybe favorite food ever?), dak galbi. I took pics of the whole process, but that seems a bit excessive here, so perhaps I'll save that treat for some future post. For now, here is the final product...

Dak galbi, which actually means "chicken ribs".
It is a mixture of marinated chicken, vegetables, noodles, rice cakes, and sweet potatoes. They cook it at the table in front of you, periodically stirring and adding more chili sauce. The white-ish river in the middle of the pan is melty cheese. It's served with  lettuce in which you wrap the yummy goodness. Which we all clearly enjoyed...

The dak galbi break revived us, so we moved on to a tour of the neighborhood. There was a bit of shopping to be done here, as well. In fact, we found a purchase my scarf daemon would not let me pass up. The lovely carriages are now mine!

Carriage scarf!
At this point we were starting to wind down, so we moved on to a lovely little spot called Art & Travel... they have it all...

Art & Travel
They only do tarot in Korean, though. Sad face. So we restrained ourselves to nightcaps and "Words With Friends" on L.'s iPhone. 

The was night finished off sleeping at the jjimjilbang (Korean bathhouse) - it's cheap and not overly uncomfortable, despite the fact that your sleep on the floor in a room full of strangers. That makes it sound much more uncomfortable and awkward than it actually is, but it is also an accurate description of the experience, so I guess this really is a case of 'you had to be there'.

Upon waking... ok, really upon finally getting up and ready... we went off to eat. Again. This time we satisfied my craving for American breakfast... kinda. In Korea, breakfast, even the American one, comes with salad. But hey, hash browns make it all good. Then we walked some more. This time back in the Gaeksa for the things that L. forgot to buy in the excitement of facilitating my Gaeksa initiation the night before. We took a little break at Ann House Cafe Self Bar (or Ann's Self House, according to B.). It's like having tea (and cake!) in a doll house.

Adorable tea!
Revived, we resumed the pursuit of purchasable items, Halloween and pet paraphernalia for B. and L. and irresistible office supplies for me. (No, I don't have a problem. Why do you ask?) 

Shopping made us all hungry again, so they fed me once more before I had to head back to the bus station. My camera was already packed, so I will have to post pictures of shabu shabu next time, because, oh, yes, there will be a next time! Yummy!

So that was my weekend of eating and walking, and eating and walking, and eating and walking.

21 October 2011

Poetry Break...

... 'cause I can't get this one out of my head - thank you very much, Mr. Poe...

A Dream Within a Dream

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow—
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand—
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep—while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

-Edgar Allen Poe, 1849

I will now return to my regular schedule of sporadic posting...

19 October 2011

List: Korean food I've tried so far...

So, first two apologies... I'm sorry, but I was too busy eating and listening to the Korean speakers around me to take pictures. And also, while I'm sure I'm not the world's worst speller, neither am I the best, or even really good at spelling, so some of these may be a bit off...

  • Kimchi - I haven't tried cucumber kimchi yet, but I think I've tasted most of the other kinds
  • Mandu (and manduguk) - dumplings
  • Toeji galbi - grilled pork ribs
  • Toast (which unlike American toast, is actually an egg sandwich with various other things on it, depending on the kind of toast i.e. ham and cheese toast is egg, ham, and cheese)
  • Toenjang jigae - bean paste soup/stew
  • Kimchi jigae - kimchi soup/stew
  • Seafood pancakes
  • Bibimbap - deliciousness! rice, veggies, chili paste, and an egg (sometimes meat, too)
  • Gimbap - a rice roll similar to sushi hand rolls, but I like it better - this is what I usually have on my supper break
  • Chuseok rice cakes
  • Many banchan (side dishes) for which I don't have names
  • Snacks - the snacks (junk food) here is somewhat different... things I expect to be sweet are sometimes salty, and even when they aren't, they are rarely as sweet as I am used to... and things I think will be salty are almost always sweeter than I expect.
  • Soju (technically a drink, not a food) 

That is all I am remembering, obviously I will post more about food - and I will try to remember to take pictures!

05 October 2011


So, I have a post that is almost ready on some of my Korean adventures, but in the meantime I have been musing on this... as an Aquarian I totally own my eccentricity, but according to this week's horoscope now it's apparently time for everyone else to experience it more fully, as well.

"AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): Right now you have license to make pretty much everything bigger and funnier and wickeder. Good fortune is likely to flow your way as you seek out experiences that are extra interesting and colorful and thought-provoking. This is no time for you to be shy about asking for what you want or timid about stirring up adventure. Be louder and prouder than usual. Be bolder and brighter, nosier and cozier, weirder and more whimsical. The world needs your very best idiosyncrasies and eccentricities!"

So, how about it? Which of my eccentricities does the world need to see more of...? My obsession with useless trivia? My fascination with cookbooks and food traditions? My deep enjoyment of romance novels? My tendency to interrupt with whatever bizarre path my brain has taken, regardless of the conversation's current path? My deep and somewhat irritating love for ellipses...?

29 September 2011

Einstein Quote of the Day...

"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales."

I love a point of view that favors fairy tales and the intelligence of children. It's nice to know that Einstein didn't worry about children being able to tell fact from fiction.

27 September 2011

Mini-rant... Taxes, because for real, No man is and island...

I am so sick of people, particularly American people, complaining about taxes... yes, that general pissy-ness has made it on to my radar, even here on the other side of the world. This quote pretty much sums up for me why people, even even corporations (whether they are people or not), need to shut up and pay their dues...

"There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear: you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did. Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea? God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along." — Elizabeth Warren at Political Animal - ‘The underlying social contract’

23 September 2011

List: Things that make me happy...

  • Eve Dallas
  • Lady Antebellum
  • bizarre, yet tasty, Korean pizza
  • colored pens
  • new notebooks
  • jasmine green tea
  • clean dishes
  • my stuffed frog, Natasha

15 September 2011

A Korean Update... With Pictures!

Last Wednesday, the 7th, I got to Reagan National Airport at 4:30 am to begin my trek across the country, and then across the Pacific Ocean. The next 25 hours are lost in a blur of airpot trams, plane boardings, and too-small airplane seats. I arrived in Korea around 6 pm local time, on the 8th. After running the gauntlet of immigration, baggage claim, and customs, the very helpful information desk people helped me buy my bus ticket to the correct Gwangju (the one in Gyungki-do). They also guided me through ground transportation to the correct stop to wait for my bus. 

 I moved into my apartment on Saturday, after staying with my school director and his family for a couple days while the previous teacher moved out. As you will see from the pictures, I am not completely settled and organized... that may happen sometime around when I have to pack to leave, if I know me.

This view is standing on my bed, all the way in the opposite corner of the apartment.

This is next to the door, in front of the refrigerator.

Here's my little patio, complete with washing machine and drying rack.

And my tiny, unseparated bathroom - I'm not quite used to showering in the middle of the room yet.

I arrived for the festival of Chuseok, and so even more than normal, my Korean hosts were anxious to make sure I had enough to eat.

These are the traditional rice cakes - my favorites were the ones with sesame and honey filling.

Here we have the radish kimchi that is my new favorite food. Homemade and delicious!

I will try to get pictures of my neighborhood up next...


15 July 2011

A new adventure...

Much has happened since last we spoke (or really, I wrote at you), my loyal readers. In that time I have applied for and achieved a job teaching overseas, visited my sisters, seen a city that was new to me, moved my things, and I am now staying with my sisters (first G, then M) until it's time to fly. Whew! That's a lot.

So, for the news that is probably of most interest to those of you who read here... Teaching overseas. I will be English teaching in Korea, in a city just outside of Seoul. There are things about the job that make me nervous - no Korean language experience, young children - but for the most part I am overwhelmingly excited to begin. I am excited for the new place and the experiences, hopefully good experiences. This will be an opportunity for me to expand my teaching experience, and at the same time I might be able to save a little money and pay down some of my student loan debt.

This doesn't mean that I am done with academia - I am still following along on the internet, keeping track of what is going on in my various realms of interest. But I am taking this time to figure out what it is I want to pursue - food, medieval lit, popular romance studies - and how it is best to pursue that primary interest once I figure it out. I am pretty sure food will be involved, but how and in what combination of ideas I don't yet know. My teaching schedule should give me a fair amount of writing time, as well. Which I hope to use not only for the aforementioned figuring, but also to work on projects and papers I've started but have not ever thought through and written out. Perhaps in the process of finishing, I will also be figuring. I am also going to spend a lot of time reading - my reading list I never finished, new philosophers I've stumbled across, food memoirs I've added to my list, my auto-buy authors that I can get my hands on in Korea. I've been stocking up on eBooks, as I only get two suitcases. And also because I love the format.

I am not sure what this move will mean for me on the cooking front. It's my understanding that most of the eating in Korea is done out, in a very tasty and inexpensive way. This is exciting for the cuisine I will get to taste, but disturbing that I won't have the comforts of my accustomed kitchen or the excitement of learning new techniques and dishes. However it happens, though, I am looking forward to exploring the cuisine.

I will report more as the adventure unfolds...

20 May 2011

100 Word Challenge: Before You

I am attempting to regularly participate in The 100 Word Challenge. Each week, Velvet Verbosity posts a prompt, and participants write 100 words, in any form, in response to the word. This week's word: Chasm

Before You

There is a line between the before time and the after time - deep, indelible, uncrossable.
Before you I ate everything without even thinking about it;
After you I eat everything because I might not have the chance.
Before you I wanted to go everywhere so I wouldn’t be here;
After you I want to go everywhere to experience there.
Before you I took pictures through lenses without meaning;
After you I take pictures in a heart without filters.
Before you I feared nothing and faced nothing;
After you I fear everything and face anything.
Death changes everything;
And nothing.

14 May 2011

100 Word Challenge: My Mother

I am attempting to regularly participate in The 100 Word Challenge. Each week, Velvet Verbosity posts a prompt, and participants write 100 words, in any form, in response to the word. This week's word: Forgetting

My Mother

Sometimes I have to concentrate to recall how a smile shaped her mouth, pushed up her cheeks, though I can see her eyes glimmer with life’s joys. After a while - minutes, hours, years - her features lose their sharp focus, becoming dreamy soft, as her hugs before disease stripped her bones. Occasionally, I’ll glimpse her hands at the end of my wrists, trace her outline in my sister’s silhouette, hear her pleasure in a Beethoven sonata, feel the pressure of her in my grandmother’s embrace. The tides of memory shift and settle, sharpen and fade, fill and empty me.

06 May 2011

100 Word Challenge: Kitchen Dance

In an attempt to write more, I am going to attempt to regularly participate in The 100 Word Challenge. Each week, Velvet Verbosity posts a prompt, and participants write 100 words, in any form, in response to the word. This week's word: Family

Kitchen Dance

The syncopated bursts of laughter compete with the rhythm of her knife. Chop, sauté, simmer, spice. She loves listening to the retold stories the best, the comfort of favorites filling her up as she fills up the pot with stock and stewed tomatoes. Weaving between listeners, her dance builds layers of flavors, future memories.

The spoon scrapes the bottom of the pot in the silence, the last of the gumbo greedily filling one last bowl. All around the room glazed looks and satisfied smiles meet her searching eyes. No hunger here. No hurt now.

The scent of spices lingers. Loved.

ETA: Here are some of the other Challenge posts...

03 May 2011

I'm Not Dead Yet...

just in case any of my miniscule readership was wondering. During the radio (or really, blog) silence of the past several months, I have been teaching writing, working at a children's bookstore, moving, and job hunting, all while I contemplate the next step in my life. Yeah, still haven't figured that one out.

Also during this long silence, I have been reading. A lot. An awful lot. All sorts of interesting things- food lit, mysteries, romance, biography, fantasy. I have revisisted old favorites, and I have discovered new favorites. One such new favorite has inspired me to actually write a review. Yes, I am that excited about this new author. Who knows, I may start to do this on a regular basis.

First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones

This debut novel by Darynda Jones came into my life just after I had finished reading, and loving, the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich, and that mood definitely colored my enjoyment of this book. It has some of the same flair and funny, with a supernatural twist. You see, Charley Davidson is the grim reaper - she sees, and talks to, dead people. This is great for a private investigator, and for helping out her cop father and uncle. It's not so great for her public image to talk to people no one else can see.

The elements that Charley has in common with Stephanie Plum - law enforcement profession, family troubles, bad boy complications - gave the story a familiar launching point, and, at least for me, highly enjoyable one. But Jones really takes these elements and makes them her own. Charley deals with her troubles with an attitude and sense of humor that engaged me and made me want to know how it works out for her (and hope that it does work out). Her snark and sarcasm, two of my favorite things, kept the pace set at hilarious. It's true that the funny kept me engaged, but she deals with some seriously difficult issues - 'cause, ya know, dead people - and does it in a graceful and real way. Charley Davidson is definitely someone I think it would be cool to know, so if you read for character like I do, this is a character that is worth your time. While I admit that I am not really widely read in the paranormal genres, this does seem to be an original voice and entertaining adventure.

I will definitely be getting Second Grave on the Left when it comes out in August.

01 May 2011

Simple abundance...

My recent move has inspired much introspection, contemplation, and perhaps even angst...

Among the topics, foremost after only the perennial what-am-I-doing-with-my-life, was, and is I suppose, the idea of simplification. This is a subject that always accompanies the hated moving process - where did I get all this stuff? Why do I have so much of it? Do I really need it all? The questioning accompanying this particular move was compounded by others in my world tackling simplification for various reasons - dear friends moving to Korea to teach, another friend's blog posts focusing on the simplification process, my sister cleaning out her clutter, books where the heroines end up traveling with no luggage and are fine... there were other less easily referenced moments, as well. All of these make me want to pare down the things that I own, reduce the volume of possessions cluttering up my life (or stored in my sister's apartment).

Questions of simplification are difficult for me - I have a nester personality. I miss my pretty nick-nacks. Objects are comforting to me. Clutter is cosy. I am predisposed to collect - books, art, cooking supplies. Having to move, and leave so much of my stuff - those books, dust-catchers, kitchen equipment - in storage for now, has created a cognitive dissonance between my desire for my missing objects, my attachment to the objects that surround me, and the appeal of a simplified life.

So, how do I find that balance point?

Another complicating factor is that move coincided with my purchase (finally) of an eReader, and my subsequent discovery that I love it - I love the experience of reading on it, I love the fact that I can have literally hundreds of books with me at any given time, I love the space it saves. And yet... I also love my paper books. How do I pick and choose in which format I want to keep a given title? Cookbooks are easy - they are still better in paper, though if I do get an iPad, who knows if that will change - but for now, I'm keeping the paper. Poetry I am also keeping the paper - the form matters in poetry, and the formatting of ebooks is not yet at a place where the form is well and consistently preserved, so they stay, too. But I have hundreds and hundreds of novels, mostly genre fiction, well-loved and well-read, many of which I now also have in ebook form. And I enjoy reading them that way. How do I choose which to keep, which to pare away? I feel almost as if I have to choose which friends I get to keep and which ones I have to say goodbye to. Due to the issue of storage distance, it is a decision that I don't yet have to make, but it is looming, and occupying my thoughts to the point of minor obsession.

Why can't simple also be easy?