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Archive for November, 2010

This year, I was feeling a bit bummed to be away from my family on what is probably our biggest holiday — so to put ourselves in the holiday mood, Evan and I decided to celebrate with two dinners.

The first meal we had on Thursday, actual Turkey Day, and it was an intimate affair. We headed to E-Mart after school to pick up the essentials that would make our dinner comforting and delicious, all while keeping up with the holiday theme.

I drooled over the cheese section for a bit, before picking out some for our friend’s birthday party.

Soju was also a must for the holiday weekend.

Since turkey wasn’t available, we opted for a pre-roasted chicken that we have been meaning to try for weeks. To go with the bird, we picked up some potatoes, butter, cream, carrots, bread and of course, some PIE (with freshly whipped cream).

We also picked up some firm, Asian pears on the street.

Once we got home from the store, Evan went to work on slicing and boiling the sweet potatoes, while I worked out what to do with the pears. My father has previously made a mouth-watering dish of squash, onions and apples that I would have liked to replicate, but I was sans squash. So after pondering over my ingredients, I threw a white onion in a pan over low heat to caramelize, and got to work dicing the pears.

After the onions were becoming translucent, I added balsamic vinegar, which created a sort of glaze. Then, in went the pears and more vinegar, to simmer into a chunky almost-sauce.

The taters mashed up nicely with lots of butter and cream.

We nibbled on the loaf of bread while we worked, singing along to Miike Snow and the new Arcade Fire CD. We tossed the carrots with rosemary and olive oil, roasting them until they were soft and fragrant. The bird went in to our tiny toaster oven next to warm up. Cluck, cluck!

I was quite impressed with our final plates. The buttery, creamy potatoes were balanced perfectly with the tangy, fruity onion/pear compote, and I could not stop eating them together until I was nearly licking the plate. The chicken had a hearty flavor from the roasting, the carrots were wonderfully herby, and the soft bread sopped up nearly a bottle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Heavenly.

We curled up on the couch, thankful for our lives together, and watched television until we were able to shove down some of the spicy walnut pie topped with fresh cream. It was our first Thanksgiving alone together, and who better to share that with than the person I am most thankful for?

Plus, we got to celebrate my favorite of gluttonous holidays again at our friend Jenny’s birthday the next day!

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This weekend, Evan and I packed up our bags and headed out of Jeonju, all the way to Ulsan for the biggest waygook (foreigner) soccer tournament in Korea.

The cup featured 16 different teams from around the country poised to show off their football skills over the course of two days.

The trip to Ulsan isn’t a short one, so we opted not to spend the money on a hotel room Friday night and go down early Saturday morning instead. After a filling dinner from Aladdin’s Lamb and minimal sleep, we raced out the door to meet up with our carpool buddies at 5:30 AM.

From Jeonju, we took a cab to the Iksan Train Station, where we caught a train to Daejeon. Then, we hustled from that train station to the other train station in Daejeon, just in time to catch the KTX bullet train to Ulsan. When we finally arrived to our destination, we got aboard a shuttle bus and went directly to the field, where the boys were playing in 10 minutes. They changed on the shuttle there — it was pretty nutty!

Once at the field, it was relaxation time. I joined the group of supporters and spent the afternoon sunning, eating hot dogs, drinking beer and trying my hand at cheerleading, lead by our fabulous head cheerleader, Elizabeth (a fellow Long Beach lady, the most awesome of kinds).

We actually had quite the time there on the sidelines, laughing and twirling signs, waving flags and generally being bad ass supporters. There wasn’t a better group of gals I could have spent the weekend with.

The “We love you Jeonju, we do” cheer (sang to the tune of We Love You Conrad from Bye-Bye Birdie) was my particular favorite. That and “Shot! Shot! Shot, shot, shot, shot, shot!”

I even managed to do a couple of cartwheels and (almost) land them.

Well, almost land some of them. Not this one (obviously).

After the end of day one, the boys had scored second in their group (lost by goal deferential) and were ready for a shower and the free buffet that awaited us. Little did we know, the Hotel Taehwa had other plans — and by other plans, I mean they had lost Jeonju’s reservation! Wah wah.

Luckily, love motels littered the streets and alleys surrounding the hotel, so we got set up in new digs relatively quickly.

After that, it was straight to the free buffet, where I literally stuffed my face full of Korean food and free soju and makgeolli. The only beverages that cost money were soda and beer, but Ho worked his magic and got those for free too. By the time I was stuffed like a giant bird on Turkey Day, my eyes literally could not stay open.

Off to bed we went, getting a whopping 9 hours of shut-eye before the big day ahead of us — pretty impressive.

Morning: a quick shower and trip to Paris Baguette for a cheese bagel and coffee (nom nom nom), then it was off to the pitches for the quarter finals. They played at a different field the second day, and us supporters were delighted to find a few marts along the road nearby to pick up snacks and beer.

Oh, and we got super awesome sweatshirts too… only 8,00 won!

It was pretty much beer o’clock when we got there.

Fast forward two games later, to the finals, where the men still haven’t conceded one goal in the entire tourney. We were whooping and hollering at the sidelines (we even recruited a guy from another team to wave a flag) making the other team sad and jealous while their tiny group of girlfriends scowled and rolled their eyes at us, as if they were above cheering for their boyfriends. Stupid. Don’t hate us cuz you ain’t us!

At one point, a few Koreans on horseback came around and asked if we wanted to go for a ride — I had my boots on anyway! It was perfect! We ran after them, then got confused when they put sashes on us and gave us trash bags. Consensus ended up being that they 1) wanted us to pick up trash while walking with the horses or 2) wanted us to pick up horse crap. Either way we ditched them, but it was weird!

Unsurprisingly, Jeonju Unathletic FC ended up killing it in the final game, never giving up a goal the entire weekend and mowing the field with every team they played. The boys went home with a gigantic trophy and 500,000 won. It was a weekend full of cheer, excitement and all the good things in life (including a cinnamon/sugar pastry thing we got on the street en route back to the train station — very delish). Well done, gents!

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Okay so it was Aladdin’s lamb, but either way it was delicious!

We had been meaning to try a Mediterranean restaurant in Jungwhasadong, Aladdin’s Lamb, and we finally made it over there on a recent windy night.

First, the restaurant’s decor was truly spectacular. It was clean, with dim lighting, green walls and different pictures of lambs everywhere. There was even a few lamb genies coming out of lamps, haha. As our students would say, “Soooo cyyuuute!”

The bathroom doors even had everyone’s favorite prince and princess from Agrabah, which of course inspired me to sing my own redition of One Jump Ahead, for the next few days — much to Evan’s dismay.

After much deliberation, Evan and I ordered two skewers of lamb, a Greek salad and two sides of pita bread.

The price was great for a western restaurant in the area — plus, it was kind of a fusion meal, since they graciously brought a large number of Korean/Greek side dishes to enjoy while we waited for our food. They were all phenomenal, especially a greens salad with a tangy vinaigrette, a tofu/potato soup and a scallion pancake.

Plus, they brought out little bowls of dipping sauces, olives, tomatoes and onions for our meal! Nom nom nom. I ended up wrapping all of these sides in the “pita bread” (really a tortilla, but it was still delicious) with the lamb and eating it like that. Verrrrry yummy. The meat itself was tender, juicy and a really nice change from all of the pork and chicken we eat on a regular basis.

The highlight of the meal though, the thing that absolutely blew my mind and left me wanting more since, was the Greek salad.

It was decadent, a pile of crisp greens, raw onions, tomatoes, spices, olives, cucumbers and huge hunks of feta cheese, all dressed in an exceptional blend of olive oil, vinegar and spices. I inhaled the salad, not realizing how much I missed dishes like this until the first bite brought it all back… The avocado/cilantro hummus, warm pita bread and marinated tomatoes, feta and olives Evan and I would pick up from the Los Feliz farmer’s market every Sunday. The schwermas I would pick up from I.V. Deli in college. The fine cuisine from George’s in Long Beach. I miss these flavors! Opa…

Seriously, we are already talking about our next trip to Aladdin’s, and I would go back for the salad alone. It’s better and cheaper than T.G.I. Fridays or Outback Steakhouse — plus, you get the benefit of Korean side dishes. Who doesn’t want refillable sides with every meal?

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As LCD Soundsystem would say, This is Happening.

For our Christmas break, we’re heading to the beaches of Thailand with two of our very best friends on the entire planet for a week of partying, sun, sand and surf.

Oh, and we’re staying at the most fabulous hotel I’ve ever seen.

Did I mention we’re going to one of the biggest and best parties in the world for New Year’s Eve?

Living the dream…I can’t wait to see Mimi and Matt’s faces !!!

Why can’t Christmas ever come early?

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Or at least I felt like one this past week. Maybe being here seven months will do that to you.

For the past few days I’ve been feeling a little homesick — probably because at some moments it seems like we’ve been here forever and it’s only been seven months, which means we have five MORE months which seems like more of forever and how on Earth am I going to deal with staying here forever forever when, at moments like these, all I want to do is go home?

So Friday, fueled by homesickness and raging hormones, there was lashing out at the boy, tears, comfort food, homesickness, and more crying. Then, there was doing laundry and thinking about why I’m such a crazy person. I swear, there must be times where Evan wonders what he signed up for. Thankfully, I have a rational and loving boyfriend, who instead of tying me up in a straight jacket (I would have), just comforted me with kind words and Sour Cream and Onion Pringles. Oh, and Criminal Minds, because it plays all the time on TV here, and it’s kind of become our new obsession.

Anyway, Evan is the best and I’m lucky <3

A few weeks ago, on our way to Charity Bowling, we stopped at Family Mart for some beer and I found something else to go crazy for (this time, in a good way). Oh. Em. Gee.

You don’t understand — Ice Cream Snickers is my jam. Seriously, when I lived in Los Feliz I would trudge to the smoke shop downstairs, rummage around in their ice cream freezer and pull out one of the chocolatey, peanutty, ice creams at least once a week. At least. If they were out, I even mustered up the motivation to trek to Cap ‘N Cork to get my fix. Now, here it is! I broke down last week and bought one, but I think I’m going to save their purchase for special occasions (or if I really, really need it). It was amazing to take a moment and enjoy a little slice of home.

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Happy Pepero Day, y’all!

Pepero, a cookie stick dipped in chocolate that is massively popular over here in Korea, officially has its own holiday.

11/11 marks the day where children and young couples throughout the country trade the sugary goodness with the ones they love. The observance is quite like Valentine’s Day — just look at the display of Pepero-like products in GS Mart — which is nothing to the display in E-Mart.

Apparently the four 1s in the date are made to look like the long, thin candies.

Rumor has it, the holiday was started in 1994 by a group of middle-school girls in Busan, where they exchanged Pepero sticks at 11:11 (even more 1s) to wish each other “grow as tall and slender as a Pepero” … all the while wishing just they would grow tall and slender while their friends stayed fat and short. Okay, so I made the last part up, but girls in Korea do have a thing about being skinny, and every girl knows that the best way to look skinny is to hang around people that are, well, not so skinny.

You know it had to be somewhere in one of their minds — these are 13-year-olds, for goodness sakes. Some of my students have actually been forbidden to exchange candy sticks with their friends at elementary school to discourage unhealthy snacking. They have concluded that tteok (rice cakes) be handed out instead, although I’m not so sure how that will fare with the sugar-starved kiddies.

There is also speculation that the holiday was invented by Lotte, the Korean mega-brand behind Pepero. The company obviously denies it, but doesn’t see any harm in creating ridiculous gift packages that encourage young people to keep enthusiastically buy, buy, buying!

Our students showered us with the sweets today, giving us Pepero in every color, shape and size. We returned the favor, handing out boxes of the snacks that we received to our classes.

I gave my sweetheart a Hello Kitty Pepero pack (because who doesn’t love HK?) and he gave me my own chocolatey goodness, wrapped up in a green bow.

After gorging myself on waaaaay too many candy sticks today, Evan and I continued the gluttony by skipping the gym and heading to Pizza Maru instead. A pie and Wednesday night TV is a lot more fun than weights and a treadmill, I’ll tell you that much!

To all my loved ones on this contrived holiday — many hugs, kisses and chocolate sweets <3

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Let me preface this by saying I had no idea my Wii bowling expertise could translate into the real lane. I once Wii-bowled seven strikes in a row. Seven! I didn’t quite nail that this time around, but I did pretty good.

I found out that I am a better bowler than I thought I was last Saturday at Sunshine Bowling, where Evan and I joined a big group of our friends in knocking down pins for charity. All of the proceeds of the night went toward a family headed by a 17-year-old boy, who struggles to make ends meet while caring for his younger brother and sister. According to our pal, this boy adopted his siblings to make sure they would stay together. He has been caring for them ever since. This particular group of awesome people have been caring for them for the past five years.

Bowling and Budweiser, all for a needy family? Sign me up!

Evan and I grabbed a bite to eat then headed to the Jirisan Building (where we work, and where the bowling alley is) with some of our friends. The crowd strapping on their lane shoes and buffing their balls were mostly English teachers (and the occasional supporter/Korean girlfriend) so it was quite fitting that they were selling t-shirts emblazoned with the Simpson’s quote “Me fail English? That’s umpossible!”

Ev bought me one :)

Since we were late to sign up, we joined a team with three people we didn’t know, but had a blast with anyway. The first game, I ended up being the winner! I bowled a spare at one point, and had to bust out into a victory dance.

Not a bad score, considering I rarely break 100. Sad, but true. We were all assigned random numbers, me being “G.”

Not wanting to be outdone, Evan stepped up his game the next couple rounds, but alas, never had it in him to win. He did get a strike though, and celebrated with his own victory boogie.

We ended up in the lane next to a few girls I met through Evan’s soccer team, which ended up being really fun. There were three Jennys in two lanes! I swear, you can’t go to any corner of this planet and not find a Jennifer who was born in the early- to mid-eighties. At least my namesakes are awesome too!

Me and my friends!

After the alley, we all headed to Tombstone for darts, drinks and more conversation. I ended up staying out later than Evan (for the first time since we’ve been here), having fun with Rachel and Rachel.

I paid for it dearly the next day, when I was too ill and grumpy to even enjoy the heavenly cuisine of Pick It Pack It, reminding me why staying out until 4 AM isn’t always the best move.

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