31 October 2012

Seoul Walking : A Moment in Namsan

In Seoul we're already saying goodbye to Autumn. The between seasons are fleeting here, there's really only a few weeks in the year which you could call 'spring' or 'autumn'. And maybe because of that I appreciate them even more. Autumn is most definitely my favourite season in Seoul - clear, blue, sunshiney skies; crisp nights, warm days; the changing colours of the leaves; the shifts in produce and products (overnight the markets stalls switch from brollies and sun hats to mittens and scarves). 

Namsan is a mountain, a park, right in the heart of Seoul and right on our doorstep. In the middle of this ever changing, ever expanding city it's a calming oasis of clean air and stunning vistas. I've only walked a small part of Namsan, but it's been stunning - dappled light, leaves just starting to turn, the sound of water flowing. 

When I can (which is not often enough) I pack a picnic and head for the hill. If I'm on my own I often get stopped by curious Koreans and some lonely expats too. I love seeing the office workers drinking in the fresh air on their lunch breaks; the groups of 'hikers' thoroughly kitted out, gossiping as they walk; the sight impaired making use of the tactile walkways...

28 October 2012

Good Things...

The screenshot above is from an add for Shangri La, and I'm kind of obsessed with it right now. Yep, I'm obsessed by an add. It's been on high rotation on airline entertainment systems lately so I've seen it a lot over the past few months. And I still want to watch it again, and again. (How often can you say that about an add?) It's beautifully shot and makes me tear up every single time I watch it. And it makes me want to get a pet wolf... You can watch the extended version of it here. Kudos, add making people.

I was flipping through ELLE decoration UK recently (as an aside, this will be one interiors magazine I'll be keeping an eye out for - surprisingly great) and I came across the above picture of awesome. Just look at that sideboard, that pouf, those gorgeous bowls and...those owl canisters! They're from Graham and Green and I think they're pretty good things.

This is the work of Takashi Iwasaki - a Japanese artist and gallery owner who lives in Winnipeg, Canada. He works in a variety of mediums, but it's the crazy colourful embroidery that draws me in. I adore Miro, and there's a hint of Miro in this work (I think), but then add embroidery to the mix - swoon!

One of my husband's many siblings lives in the UK, and she often pops a DVD in the mail when she comes across a comedic gem she thinks we'll like. Miranda was the most recent of these comedic gems, and yes, we liked! We devoured season one and two, and then force fed the show to anyone who happened to cross our path. Miranda is awkward, clumsy and self deprecating in the best way. She's desperately single, terribly middle class, very likeable and very funny. The plot could read a little like a ladies only sitcom, but my husband is Miranda's biggest fan.

If you hadn't heard my ridiculously talented, endlessly inspiring sister has a book coming out - Find and Keep. From afar I've witnessed the blood, sweat and tears that she's put into this thing, and to see the finished product (which is a-ma-zing) out in the big wide world is pretty darn exciting. Its safe to say that as a family we're more than a little bit proud. I'm heading to the Melbourne launch next week, maybe I'll see you there? (ps. I'm in Melbourne for  24 hours! Crazy town!)

UPDATE : To coincide with the launch there's a super awesome giveaway going on at blog of super awesome The Design Files. Go enter now!

17 October 2012

All wrapped up...

Did you realise it's less than 70 days until that most festive of festive days? Yikes! Are you ready? Or maybe thinking about maybe getting ready at some point in the future? I think I would most definitely fall into that last category...

One of the things I am thinking about is what theme I'll go with for the gift wrap this year (you can see my wrapping from last year here, and from the year before here). So over the next month or so I thought I'd gather together some inspiration  - showing you some of the wrapping I've done for various birthdays throughout the year, and also sharing some of my favourite gift wrapping ideas from around the internets. 

Here's a fun but simple wrap I did for the youngest step-sons birthday - plain kraft paper, spot stickers and a paper punch or four - easy! 

15 October 2012

Seoul Walking : Getting Arty in Insadong

Insadong is one of those really touristy areas that are also quite awesome - every city has them, I think. Like Times Square in New York, or the Opera House in Sydney. Insadong is Korea, magnified and commoditised, but it still has a soul (please note my immense restraint in not using a pun there). 

Insadong is cobbled streets and tiny laneways; ajummas and hanboks; mass produced traditional craft; delicate handmade jewellery; tea houses and modern art galleries; stunning pottery and oh so much wonderful, wonderful paper; hanoks hidden down side streets, turned into restaurants serving bbq, dumplings and soup; and embroidery that nearly breaks your heart with it's intricate beauty. 

And then, just round the corner, you'll find a stray dog or three, and old men hard at work lugging pallets of eggs and bags of cabbages from the underground vegetable market. Or go the other way and you'll find lotus lamps and prayer beads and Seoul's largest Buddhist temple...

12 October 2012

Death by Doxie : Why the Spots, Elfi?

So...last weekend we were cooking up a Chinese feast (or, more accurately, an American Chinese feast). The husband was busily coating some strips of pig for sweet and sour pork and I was running about doing something or other. And then I saw this... 

According to the husband Elfi wanted some of the pork. Which apparently meant getting covered in flour.

ps. Crazy-eye Ferdi!

11 October 2012

Collecting Colour : October is Gold

First up, I adore the title of this post! It's Autumn here in Seoul, my favourite season, so for me October is gold! 

As for the collection, I was really dreading putting it together. I just don't have a heck of a lot of gold lying about the place. But - after raiding the craft cupboard, the dress ups box and the xmas decoration stash - I came up with something that I'm rather pleased with. I think the sparseness of the collection works with the gaudy brashness of the gold. What do you think?

In this collection are four xmas baubles; some lai see packets from our time in Hong Kong; lots of brooches and even more tiny confetti animals; a rather brash (and cheap) sequin belt and faux croc skin clutch that I bought some years back for a gold themed party; origami paper; a favourite little purse that I thrifted when I was a teen (that fabric!); some ink, hair clips and tinsel. Looking at it all now it's making me feel a bit festive actually! 

I'm really looking forward to seeing what you guys come up with for this one...

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Every month through 2012 I'll be 'collecting colour', and you can join in too!  Link up below, and/or add your photo to the Flickr group here.  And go here to get all the information you need.  

05 October 2012

Six Things I Learnt on the Trip That Was

Well, we're back! Our three months of travel madness is over. And I have to say I'm a little relieved. It's been unbelievably awesome but also a little exhausting. So it's nice to be home with the hounds, with a sense that I have some time to catch up on the paperwork, and to craft, blog and cook to my hearts content. 

Our last trip was pretty great - we went on a 12 night 'holy land' cruise. Our first stop was meant to be Egypt but, well, this was happening right when we were meant to dock so we went to Messina, Sicily and Valetta, Malta instead. In Messina we stumbled upon a giant mechanised clock, just when it was about to strike. In Valetta we visited the stunning blue grotto (see above). Not quite the great pyramids but rather pleasant all the same. Then it was on to Jerusalem, Piraeus and Naples, with a few lazy days in Rome tacked on for good measure. 

Here are six things I learnt:

1. Jerusalem really is amazing 
I wasn't brought up in a religious household. My Mum is most definitely not of the religious persuasion - 'spiritual' perhaps yes, but I think it's safe to say most organised religion leaves her cold. My Dad, even more so. My step-dad is Jewish, but (from my perspective, anyhow) more in a cultural sense than a religious one. I was one of the kids who had a note from their parents that meant I got to read in the library while everyone else was doing RI. So I wasn't sure how I'd feel about Jerusalem, being the place that holds some of the most sacred sites for three of the worlds big religions. I love history and I am fascinated by religion and ritual, but I just wasn't sure...but - it was amazing. 

It's tricky to find the words to explain why, maybe I'm still trying to figure it out in my own head, but I'll have a go. Partly it's seeing all those places that you normally see on the news, associated with violence and unrest, in a light that is peaceful, respectful and even (in the case of the western/wailing wall) festive. It's seeing devout Muslims and Jews and Christians going about their business, worshipping at these sacred sites which are literally next door to each other, in harmony. It's hearing the locals talk - with hope - about peace. It's seeing the separation walls and driving down shiny new highways that not too long ago were border walls with barbed wire and mines. 

There's also something about a place where people devote an entire day to just reading and thinking and praying, a place where people are involved and engaged in politics and the (very relevant) issues of the day. And then there's the food - falafel, hummus, shawarma oh my! It was amazing.

2. Introverts and cruises can mix 
I'm a bit of an introvert. My husband is basically an introvert. The eldest step son is a card carrying inrovert. (Or possible just a moody teen. Or, perhaps more likely, both.) You'd think that being trapped on a big boat, surrounded by thousands of other people day in day out, would be a tough ask. And yet we all enjoy a good cruise. 

The key for introverts is having a place to escape to, to get away from all the people, and the cabin definitely serves this purpose. But so does lying on a deck chair, staring up at the impossibly blue sky with your earphones wedged in to block out the noise of the crowd around you. And so does sitting at the bar just watching the passing parade. And so does sweating for an hour or so at the gym, iPod firmly in ears and eyes keenly scanning the horizon just in case dolphin decides to say 'hi'. Cocktail O'Clock helps a bit too...

3. You can never get tired of looking at an endless blue horizon 
Please see exhibits A, B and C below.

4. There are big differences between an American and an Italian cruise boat 
Our previous cruising experience has been with MSC, the cruise company that prides itself on it's 'distinctive Italian style'. For us, this meant great coffee, great food and great aperitifs. This year we went with Royal Caribbean, an American company that prides itself on good customer service. So it means the staff remember your name, and ask you questions about your day and your family. But it means the coffee sucks, the food is confused and the cocktails involve a lot of soft drink. 

Guess who we'll be cruising with in the future?

5. I travel for food 
Yes, yes I travel to see history and art and natural wonders. But when it comes down to it my favourite things from every trip always include at least one spectacular meal. My travel memories are always centred around the smell and taste of a region or town. And my desire to return is almost always driven by a desire to eat that thing, whatever it was, again. 

This trip it was peanut butter thickshakes at Johnny Rockets (yep, the ship we were on had one on board!); the best falafel and hummus I have ever eaten (just outside Damscas Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem, served by a friendly Palestinian and featuring amazing olive oil from the West Bank); the heavenly flavours of simple Italian food (risotto, prosciutto with mozzarella, garlic and oil bruschetta, pizza diavolo)...yum!

6. That security guards in the Vatican Museum are anxious around vomit 
So. We're walking along the impressive gallery of maps in the Vatican Museum, weaving our way through the crowds and admiring the 16th century frescoes, when the youngest step-son says 'I'm not feeling very well'. Now, I've known this little guy long enough to know this actually means 'You've got thirty seconds to find me a vomit receptacle or else there's going to be some additional 'paint' on these historic maps'. Serendipitously my husband had just bought (yet another) travel guide, and for some reason I'd kept the plastic bag. So, there we stood, amongst the throngs of tourists heading to the Sistine Chapel, whilst the poor sick youngest step son did what he had to do...

In case you don't know, the fun part of being in the Vatican Museum is that once you're on the path to the Sistine Chapel you can't really exit, until you've seen the Sistine Chapel. And if you're carrying a bag of vomit, don't expect a warm welcome or a great deal of help from the guards scattered about the place...