Seoul St. Andrew’s Ball 2015

My husband and I enjoyed the fun opportunity of attending the Seoul St. Andrew’s Ball this weekend. We tried haggis, laughed with friends, heard plenty of bag pipe music, ate wonderful food, and even had the opportunity to meet U.S. Ambassador to South Korea, Mark Lippert. We didn’t make it to the 3am breakfast, which in quite certain is a sign we’re no longer Young & Fun(tm).

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Tiny Kitchen Goes Gourmet, Thanksgiving 2015 


Cooking in my Korean kitchen is challenging to say the least. My oven is maybe 1/4 the size of a US oven and does not heat evenly or accurately. My stovetop has three working burners but is so small that only two can be used at one time. The refrigerator and freezer are less than half the size of a standard one in the States. My stand mixer did not work here so I must whip and cream by hand. My counter space is severely limited….and I don’t have a dishwasher. Needless to say, I had to get creative to pull off my typical completely from-scratch food snob holiday meal yesterday. 
With bread to be cubed, dough to be kneaded, pies to be rolled, cranberries to be pleasantly popped, pumpkins to be roasted, and giblets to be browned, I dedicated two hours to food prep, cooking/baking, and dishwashing for the Thanksgiving meal every day since last Sunday. I planned in such a way to utilize appliances like my crockpot in addition to the unreliable oven and stove top. Nearly all of the recipes were new to me, a cardinal sin of holiday food prep, I know. All of my efforts paid off though with a wonderful meal on Thursday evening. 
On The Menu~
sweet-and-spicy nuts & orange pomegranate sparkling mocktails 
Dry Brined Turkey
Shallot Mashed Potatoes with Giblet Gravy
Apple Sage Crockpot Dressing 
Mixed Seed Buttery Cloverleaf Rolls 
Southern Green Beans
Orange Cranberry Sauce 
Cardamom Cinnamon Butter Molded into a Turkey Shape 
Dark Chocolate Hollow Turkeys 
Chocolate-Pecan Pie
Caramel Pumpkin Pie
Fresh Vanilla Whipped Cream

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Today, Rose and I had the opportunity to participate in the Korean autumn tradition known as 김장/kimjang. On my bucket list long before we arrived here, this UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage brings together piles of cabbage and paste and many, many hands to make light work while preparing kimchi for the winter.

 In the past, this kimchi was one of the only sources of vegetables in the winter diet. Kimchi would be placed in pottery and then stored underground to keep for the harsh Korean winters. Although all sorts of vegetables are available during the winter today, 김장 still remains an important event in ROK.

The kimchi we helped make today is for charity and will find its way to the tables of the less fortunate in our local community.    


After we had finished making kimchi, we were given the opportunity to enjoy a pork dish traditionally served during 김장. It was a nice, warming touch on a cold rainy day! 

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Recapturing the Rebel Christmas 

I found myself scrolling through pricey nativity sets last week, fretting over which one would provide the perfect aesthetic for the Pinterest inspiration dancing about in my head. Fretting, worrying, obsessing is how Christmas has entered into my mind these days after last year’s PCS-Mas and the fact Amazon Prime deliveries are far more than two days away when the address reads APO. The pressure to make everything perfect felt like a great weight on my shoulder and so I turned on Pandora to aid in my inspiration. One of the first songs to pop up was one I haven’t heard for several years: Rebel Jesus.

Suddenly I found myself back in the hutong of Beijing. Smiling faces playing mahjong on street corners entered my mind. Children taking great joy in the few toys they had, far more pleasure than my daughter takes in her beautiful and ample assortment of playthings. My mind wandered next to the old woman I have often passed on the streets in Korea, selling crops from tiny patches of land to ekk out a simple living. Pictures of the recent past in the country I currently call home appeared, many of which feature smiling faces despite the impoverished surroundings. And finally memories of my own Christmases pasts hit and with it guilt of what I’ve become and how I am trying to use consumerism to make something that cannot be purchased: Christmas spirit.

There was a time in the past where Pinterest was my inspiration because I had to make everything myself. It was an era in my life when my creativity was essential to stretch dollars and provide my family with a better standard of living by doing so. It was years when we had beautiful handmade holidays, a nicely furnished home, good clothing, and made many memories thanks to thrifting, side-of-the-road finds, and sheer elbow grease. It was a time when I learned a great deal about what was important in life, what truly mattered to me, and what talents I possessed.

In the years immediately following I hosted a book club meeting about a $100 dollar holiday, continued the handmade gift & decor tradition, and published writing advocating for the possibility of not just a simpler, more frugal holiday season but one that was better by virtue of these very things. And yet recently I have found myself lost and floundering. Why is this I wondered? Why is it so easy to fall off the path? Why am I taking the easy route of buying Stuff instead of creating?

I pondered this for several days and have my suspicions as to why. I also have my felting needles and wool roving that has now followed us to two houses and a daughter eager to make some handmade holiday magic of her own. I exchanged my guilt for a “crafternoon” and walked away with refreshed, back on the Rebel Christmas path, with a Korean Holy Family to add to Christmas displays when we decorate early next month. I cleaned up my pin boards to reflect my original intentions in using the website and deleted an Amazon cart full of Stuff. In so doing, I stopped the practical ends of an ugly snowball of Everything Wrong with American Christmas and it is my hope, eventually the feelings of greed, discontent, and status-seeking rearing up inside my faulty mortal heart.

But pardon me if I have seemed
To take the tone of judgement
For I’ve no wish to come between
This day and your enjoyment
In this life of hardship and of earthly toil
We have need for anything that frees us
So I bid you pleasure and I bid you cheer
From a heathen and a pagan
On the side of the rebel Jesus.

Posted in frugality, green living, handmade holidays, livinginanexpatparadise, musings, spirit | Leave a comment

Truth in Meme: How to Lead a Fascinating Life

I came across this meme this summer shortly after returning from Beijing and Singapore and saw profound truth glimmering in these words. 

This is the life I want to lead: intrigue, romance, the arts, music, good food, travel, excellent conversation, beautiful people. 

And so I began to get to work on making changes. Several months later, am I ever glad I did! Coming to Korea and having no idea what to expect, I was terrified my prospects for friendship and camaraderie, amusement and diversion would be limited to the Army base. I found instead so much more beyond the gates, beyond the subways and buses that service my city, beyond the four walls of my small downtown apartment. 

I’ve found a life unlike the one I’ve led in the past. For the very first time, one with a true balance between being Daisy and being homeschooling mother. I’ve made a life that opens the door to conversations more stimulating than what my last duty station was or what rank my husband dons on his chest. I’ve been able to put into a reality an idea that I’ve long held in my heart: that getting married and having a child doesn’t mean my life as a unique individual person needs to come to an end. I’m more than a wife and mother and in so acknowledging, ironic as it may be, I am in fact a better wife and mother. 

Memes don’t often hold profound truth in my experience. They don’t hold hands as one faces fears, tries new things, and chases dreams. This particular one is the exception. It is my beginning recipe for living a Good Life in a season of my life when my free time has grown, my child needs me in different and less energy intense ways, and a wonderful public transportation system quite literally brings the world into my easy reach. 


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