Wednesday, February 23, 2011

New Friends

Instead of writing a general catch up post (though I'll give you a quick recap), I thought I'd start writing according to theme. This post will be about friends.

Now, I like the people that I work with. Korean, Canadian, Welsh, they're all decent folk and I get along with them for the most part. But outside of work, I don't spend a lot of time with any of them, even the Canadians who live in the same little apartment building. So I've been trying to branch out, make friends in other places. I've succeeded in three different social arenas.

I went to a clothing swap in Seoul a couple of weeks ago. No pics, but I got a lot of neat stuff that was new to me in exchange for getting rid of some clothes that didn't fit me anymore (due to losing all this weight). I met a cool chick named Jonna (pronounced yawn-ah) and some other really awesome ladies, and we had a fun time chatting, trying on each others' old clothes, giving our unbiased opinions on who looked good in what, and munching on snacks.

I frequent a forum at Dave's ESL Cafe where lots of Korea and ESL teaching-related discussions happen, as well as the more random forum fare, and threads for folks who want to buy/sell/trade things. I've met a few folks by buying things from them on the forum and meeting up in various parts of Seoul to swap cash and goods. It was a random thread on weight loss, however, that led me to meet my friend Michele. She offered to help me with a diet plan and acted as a cheerleader to keep me on it. I lost a good 6 or 7 pounds with her help! We've hung out a couple of times now, once in Itaewon and once at her place up in Incheon, and I'll be visiting her again this weekend for homemade pizzas and jimjilbang (Korean sauna/bath house). More on that next weekend.

Anyway, here's Michele and her wonderful boyfriend British!Sam (not to be confused with Canadian!Sam):

My school is set up a bit differently than most Korean private academies (known as "hagwon"). It's a government-funded English center, with a full library on the third floor, our school on the second floor, and a daycare center on the first. Though I technically work for the school, I teach my Library Program classes on the third floor in one of the two library classrooms. As such, I've had more interaction with the library staff than some of the other teachers.

Hae Young and I met when I was volunteering at the library Christmas program one weekend. She said she would show me around Seoul sometime, and we've been trying to get together for a day to hang out ever since! Our first several weekend plans fell through completely. Then, for my birthday, she got as far as meeting me for a nice ride on the subways before getting called into work. It turned out okay, but we both felt we should try for another time.

FINALLY, last weekend, we met up for a Sunday movie. I'd suggested Tangled, but it was sold out, so we wound up seeing Sanctum instead. We were joined by another library staffer, whose name I mangled so badly he said I could just call him "Dog." Or maybe it was "Doug." I'm not sure.

Hae Young bought me an adorable head band (which I should really take pictures of sometime) with a little bunny on it, and after the movie we went out for melt-your-freakin'-face-off spicy chicken. It was delicious, but so hot I couldn't eat very much.

Here's me with my new Korean friends:




So, there you have it. New friends.


Itaewon is my new favorite place on the weekends since Michele showed me where the foreign food markets are. I can now buy Cheetohs, ginger ale, Pop Tarts, oatmeal, instant mashed potatoes, and any number of other dubiously healthy Western foods. She also introduced me to Tartine bakery, which does this amazing Romanian peasant bread and their own (expensive!) butter.

Itaewon also had this red panda hat, which I HAD to buy, because... come on. Red panda.

It has little feets!


That little street-crossing tunnel near my apartment had more art in it last time I went through. A whole design school's art show, actually. I walked through about a block's worth of amazing paper sculpture and other works. I also took a bajillion photos with my iPod, which I'm not going to post here because it would make this post a mile long. Instead, have some links.

Argh, that's taking forever, too. I'll figure out a better way to post these. Maybe I'll just stick them on Facebook. :P

Magpies are really common here, like crows are in Minnesota, but magpies are prettier. Now, I love me some spooky black birds, but magpies have a certain dignity with their long tails, crisp black and white markings, and that glossy iridescent sheen of blue-green-purple to their dark feathers. Canadian!Sam calls them "majestic" and I can't really argue the term. They are. They're majestic. I finally got a (not very good) shot of one. They're pretty bold birds, but oddly camera shy. I'll see if I can't get a better shot with the good camera, now that the weather is warming up.

I took a picture of this random sign in the subway station because I thought the little dude looked like a chibi Castiel from Supernatural, and that amused me.

I also took a picture of this sign in the bathroom where I work.

As you may have noticed from previous posts, I've lost a lot of weight since I got here. Still flabby in the middle, but that could be cured with a bit more exercise to tone up the muscles. I appear to be losing weight at an average of a pound a week, which is nice and healthy. I could probably be losing more if I laid off the sweets entirely, but hey, don't expect miracles from me. The rate I'm going at is just fine.

Here's a recent pic. I'm barely sucking it in! Ignore my double chin there. XD

This was a reference shot for my Valentine's gift to Chris:

Gus is doing much better lately as well. He had some kind of scab on his nose, but I think that's because he scratched himself. I really need to take him to a vet and learn how to trim his nails. He has a swanky new cage and gets lots of fresh veggies in addition to his hay and pellets, and as much free time to run around the apartment as I can possibly allow him. Essentially, if I am awake, at home, and not cleaning, he has the run of the place.

Edit: I had some Gus videos up, but they weren't working properly, so I took them down. Will try to fix the problem and re-post later. :(

And that's it for now. Next weekend I should have plenty of great stuff to share about bath houses, Incheon, and making pizzas.



Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Maria's Recipe Corner #1: AMAZEBALLS!

So, I decided to start writing down some of my experiments-gone-right in the kitchen, since I might want to attempt reproducing the results later. Or, hey, you never know-- someone ELSE might want to try the recipes I cobble together mostly by luck and sheer stubbornness.

I'll probably write a proper post (with more Gus videos and some funny photos) this weekend, but for now, have a recipe. Let's start with something easy.


That's the official name for this recipe. It's simple, but it takes awhile to make.


About 2-3 cups of leftover mashed potatoes (at least chill in the fridge for an hour before making AMAZEBALLS)

1 or 2 eggs

Cheese of choice, cubed

Salt & pepper and other seasonings as desired

Frying oil of choice

Potato starch (optional) or panko crumbs (I haven't tried this one yet, but I saw another similar recipe that used it and it sounds YUMMY). You don't necessarily need to dip your balls in anything. I'm sure naked balls fry up just as well.

Mix potatoes (seasoned as desired) and eggs in a large bowl until eggs are totally incorporated. You might want to just squish your hands in there to be sure. Scoop generous spoonfuls into your palm and flatten the potato mixture, then stick a piece of cheese in the middle and fold the potatoes around it until it's all tucked in. Make into a ball and flatten slightly (but not so much that the cheese pokes out). Dip in optional potato starch or panko crumbs for extra crispiness on the outside. The potato starch is also nice because it keeps the raw balls from sticking to each other in the bowl. Nobody likes sticky balls.

I fried mine in my wok in about 1/4 to 1/2 inch of canola oil, medium heat. Oil should be hot enough to cook the balls quickly without soaking into the potato too much, but not so hot that you get scorching or spattering. You don't want burned or soggy balls. Flip them when they're golden brown on one side, scoop out with a little strainer or wooden spoon, drain on napkins.


Great side dish, or eaten on their own. I inhaled like five of the damn things (with blisters in my throat to prove it) before they were done sizzling. The burning never tasted so good. I am full now.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Lunar New Year Break Massive Update Part #2

There was so much picspam in the last post that I felt the need to break this up into smaller posts, lest I overload your poor computers with AWESOME. ;)

On Monday after the semester ended, we came into work, did a bit of lesson planning, some teachers swapped rooms, and so on. Then, after lunch, we piled onto one of our shuttle buses and headed up to Paju where Woongjin headquarters are located.

We got a tour of the building, met a bunch of people WAY higher on the pay scale, and basically got to... not work all afternoon.

We got to see the roof of the building, too!

After the tour, we got to check out a secondhand book store, and the company let us pick a complimentary book, CD, or DVD. I wound up picking up a box set of Hana Yori Dango on DVD for less than $6. Nice! The bookstore itself was fun to explore. It was small, but labyrinthine.

After the book store, we went to dinner at a really nice place in town. Mmmm, galbi! I love Korean BBQ! The restaurant had really quaint decor.

That guy I'm sitting next to was really nice. The way he explained it, I think he was on the same level as Steven in terms of the company hierarchy. We were also joined by Steven's boss, so that was pretty cool.

After Tuesday, vacation officially began. I haven't really done much since it started, to be honest. I haven't really gone out to take pictures much or anything. Well, here's some of me in a subway station with a cool bench sculpture:

I'm so classy.

Otherwise, I've been just keeping up with household chores, buying groceries, bonding with Gus, watching movies, drawing, reading, sleeping a LOT, and... being lazy in general. I did go visit a friend in Incheon a few days ago, and we're going to get together in Itaewon tomorrow for some shopping and whatnot. Mostly, though, I've been at home.

In other news!

I've lost 3 kilos (about 6.6 pounds) since I started my new diet. That puts me at 70 kilos or about 154 pounds. I haven't weighed in that low for a few years now, so that feels pretty darn good! I look better, too! Check me out! I'm barely even sucking it in. ;)

So, yeah, I guess this low-carb thing works. I'm going to do it a few weeks more, but I'm going to start introducing more fruit and whole grains pretty soon. I miss bread and fruit. TT_TT

Still looking for a good taekwondo/hapkido place in Anyang. Itaewon is really too much of a commute (and an expense) to bother with. On my budget, anyway. It's too bad, as I liked the place in Itaewon, but only being able to go once a week really didn't appeal.

News about Gus! So, apparently the poor guy hadn't had his cage cleaned in ages when I'd first gotten him, so he had a crusty nose, watery eyes, and a respiratory infection. I don't know HOW I missed this when I picked him up, but I only got a peek at him under a towel in a dim subway station, so I suppose I can be excused for my lack of observational skills. After thoroughly cleaning his cage, giving him a better diet with fresh veggies as well as pellets and hay, and spending some heartbreaking days trying to clean the crust off his nose with a warm wet rag, he started to recover.
This is how he looked before:

Getting better:

And how he looks now:

I know that it's hard to see the improvement in that last pic, but he doesn't pose well for close-ups. Trust me, it's MUCH better. His eyes are no longer watery, and his nose looks healthy and pink! Also, he seems to enjoy hanging out in the bathroom.

Apparently, he's forgiven me for the washcloth treatment, because he likes to run circles around my legs and do this little shimmy-jump called a "binky. These are expressions of pure bunny joy, as you can see in the below videos.

Failed attempt to capture the happy:

Binky (with bonus Chris on iChat!)

Happy dance!

Well, it is now officially Lunar New Year, also known as Seollal in Korean. Year of the Metal Rabbit, 2011. Let's hope it's a good one!

Here, have an adorable non-Gus bunny pic:

Sorry for being so lazy on updates. I'll do my best to post more often. <3