26 March 2013

Signs of Life

Although it does feel like Winter is dragging on and on, we did have some lovely almost Spring weather over the weekend. And with the slightly warmer weather  comes some signs of life. Seoul is slowly, slowly peeling off its drab grey Winter coat.

These shots were all taken on our roof garden. I get so excited when I spot the little patches of bright green in our lawn, or when I see the first new shoots on our azaleas. With everything lying dormant and brown for so long, it always seems a little miraculous when it all suddenly bounces back to life.

23 March 2013

Six Things I Am Over

Although I am generally a glass half full kind of girl, right now there's a bunch of stuff that quite frankly I could do without. And what's the point of having a blog if you can't have a bit of a whinge every now and again, right? So, in no particular order, here are some things that I am over: 

1. Winter. It's still getting below zero most nights, and the wind is horribly biting most days, and some parts of Korea had snow the other day. Hey Winter - March is nearly gone, time to move on out and let a bit more of Spring in. Please

2. How much I weigh. Not in a 'every time I look in the mirror I think about how fat I am and I hate myself and *sob* turn that Christina Aguilera song up please' way. I actually think I'm rather toned at the moment. Seriously, check out my... Sorry. Got carried away there. So toned yes, but I am carrying an extra kilo or three. I'm dealing with it all in a terribly sensible way - exercising more, eating less. Yawn. I've ramped up my gym sessions and most days I'm under my calorie goal (myfitnesspal keeps telling me 'if every day were like today you'd weigh X in 5 weeks'; I'm beginning to think it's all a dirty lie). But! Nothing is budging. And don't tell me that glass of wine at the end of the day has to go. I'd rather keep the kilos thank you. 

3. Waiting. It's been a week when I've felt like I'm waiting to start things, waiting to finish things; waiting for emails, waiting for some 'free time'. Just waiting. I know that these kinds of free-floating, treading water kind of periods are normally followed by a burst of creativity and productivity, but it doesn't make it any less annoying. 

4. The lack of lamb and pita bread in Korea. No really - I am completely over it. I've perfected the hummus from greatest-cookbook-of-the-moment Jerusalem and we dream of having a simple, mid-east inspired meal. Maybe with some spiced lamb cutlets or marinated lamb kebabs, and some delicious soft chewy pita. We even tried to make some pita bread last weekend. It was kind of fun but, let's be honest, a complete and utter failure. 

5. Not knowing stuff. I may have mentioned before that I'm a little bit of a control freak. I like to plan. And at the moment there is so much stuff that's up in the air, fluid, changing, maybe/maybe not. It's driving me a little insane. 

6. The state of Australian politics. Yes, when you're so far away it makes for a good laugh, a good dinner table conversation (Did you hear...? What? Really? No way! God they're a mess aren't they? etc). But we're moving back soon, so Australian politics (I'm looking at you Labour) sort yourself out, okay? Otherwise we will almost definitely be living with Tony Abbott as our Prime Minister. And that's an idea I'm completely over. 

Anything that's got your goat at the moment? Tell me what you're over right now, it's cathartic I promise!


ps. I've woken up to a glorious blue sky day and the promise of double digit temps; the husband and I have a commitment free weekend ahead of us and a stack of DVDs to watch; North Korea hasn't turned Seoul in to a sea of fire (yet); and we are healthy (relatively), wealthy (-ish) and wise (ha!). So - life is pretty damn good really!

16 March 2013

Seoul Walking : Street Food

Rain, hail, snow or shine you can always find something to eat on Seoul's street corners. In Winter there's freshly roasted chestnuts and in Summer there's delicious juicy slabs of watermelon. And all year round there's sausages, fried potato, chicken and fish cakes (all on sticks); toasties featuring an assorted mix of plastic cheese, spam and egg; peanut butter flavoured dried squid (seriously); dumplings; egg cake (like a steamed vanilla pudding with an egg whacked on the top); braised silk worm; 'gold fish' bread; and all kinds of hot pockets and fritters and things stuffed inside other things (did you know it was possible to fill a cocktail wiener with cheese?). Korea's street vendors are nothing if not inventive. 

Not being a fan of squid, fish cakes, insects or deep fried sausages, most of this street buffet is off limits for me. But I have found a few tasty things for snacking on the go. I love the Summer fruit stalls, and the dumplings. And I'm quite partial to the egg cakes (they are so moist and vanillary, and they warm you up in the cold of Winter), although I tend to take the egg part of it home for the dogs. But my favourite is '호떤' ('hodok' or 'hotteok') which is a shallow fried rice flour pancake with stuff in the middle. You can get a sweet version, but I love the savoury one with glass noodles and a little veg (see below). 

Everyone who visits Seoul always asks - is it safe to eat? I think yes, especially if you go to the busy stalls in high traffic areas. As for taste, it's all so cheap you might as well give it a try - you'll only waste a dollar or two if you don't like it. And it'll give you the chance to admire the simple ingenuity of these street cooks and their portable kitchens. Oh, and a word of warning, if it looks like it's something delicious stuffed with chocolate it's probably not - red bean paste looks deceptively like Nutella...

14 March 2013

Inside Out : Yay!

One of my absolute favourite magazines in the whole wide world is Inside Out. It's full of gorgeous interiors and arty crafty people, and it always manages to strike the perfect balance between inspiring and doable. I've been reading it for years and it was one of the few survivors when I was culling my (many) magazine subscriptions last year...

...So you can imagine how ridiculously excited I am to have Good Things* mentioned in the April issue, in the '6 blogs to bookmark' section! Hooray! Hurrah! Yippee! Thank you Inside Out! And thank you My Poppet for letting me know via Instagram!

ps. The husband nearly fell on the floor when he saw the 'busy' bit. This was not helped by the fact that he'd just popped home at midday (a quick breather in between a 7am and 7pm meeting) and found me still in my pyjamas. 

ps. Just to clarify - whilst I may have been in my pyjamas, I hadn't just got out of bed. I'd been terribly busy all morning, tweeting and Instagraming and figuring out how I could get to the ProBlogger Training Event this year. I think I may have paid a bill too...so...

ps. Also - doesn't the cover look gorgeous? That rug! Can't wait for my copy to make its way to Seoul!

13 March 2013

Collecting Colours : White + Black

How prescient of me to nominate black and white for this month! I mean it's always a classic combination but it's having a bit of a moment right now isn't it? I am so on the pulse, down with the cool kids, hip to the something-or-other. From here on in just call me Ms Fashionista. Yep.* 

So, white and black, black and white. Classic, classy, stylish...yet a little subversive too, when it's being graphic, bold, strong. And quite a challenge to capture. I love how these diptychs really bring the different textures to life. I guess once most of the colour of the world is gone that's what our eye is drawn to? I also like how abstract some of the photos are becoming. Can guess what all the different images are (especially that second pair)? I'll sent a postcard or two your way if you can! 

*If anyone ever reads my blog and fails to realise that I write with tongue firmly in cheek I'm going to come off as a bit of a wanker, aren't I?

* * * * * * *

Every month through 2013 I'll be 'collecting colours', and you can join in too! Just create something, anything based on the colour pair for each month. Link up below, Instagram, Tweet and/or add your photo to the Flickr group here. You can go here to get all the information you need.  

12 March 2013

Hold onto your hats people - it's a second instalment of a series within a few weeks of the first instalment! Woah! 2013 is totally the year of me doing proper bloggy type things! Go me! 

Anyway, shall we talk about how awesome Margaret Atwood is? Yes, we shall. She is awesome. My mum got me reading her when I was an impressionable youth. I think Cat's Eye was the first Margaret Atwood book I read, when I was about 16 or so. I don't remember much about the book, but I do remember falling in love with the language, the beautiful writing, the ideas. After that I worked my way through her back catalogue, and I've read most things she's written since. 

This is a quote I've had squirrelled away for awhile now. From a time long before this blog, but when I half considered myself a writer of sorts (I've got folders full of half written, very cringe worthy short stories). It's from The Blind Assassin and I think it perfectly captures the process of writing honestly. 'Impossible, of course.' 

The font is Bombshell, designed by Emily Conners - a new favourite for me. It's not a free one (I will feature some free fonts soon, promise) but it's worth every gorgeous cent!

09 March 2013

The Big Project : Update 1

So, with the move to Sydney a definite thing that is actually happening, it's been all systems go on The Big Project. Yep, we're renovating. From a distance. 

It's our first time going through the process (which is a nice way of saying we have no freaking idea what we're doing), but thankfully we have an awesome architect who is holding our hands. And who, after five long months, is only just now starting to get annoyed by my midnight emails agonising over kitchen bench options. Anyhoo...

Here's what has happened so far:

1. I found an architect. Via Google. Now I'm sure there's all kinds of checklists and such that give you detailed instructions on choosing the right architect for your project. But there's also Google, which is what I went with. I googled 'Paddington architect' and a bunch of options turned up. I picked Roth Architecture because a) I really liked their portfolio - light, modern and clean but with the personality of the owners coming through in each project; and b) they'd done a bunch of terrace houses in the area, which meant they'd dealt with the council on similar projects before. Very helpful. 

2. I put together a brief. Basically a list of things we wanted in the house plus a package of inspiration images. All those pages I'd been ripping out of magazines and pinning for the past year or so, with little notes explaining what I liked about each image. It was kind of like scrap booking your dream house and then handing it over to someone who might actually make it all happen. This bit was lots and lots of fun. 

3. We had a chat with the architect. We talked on the phone and then met in person. We talked about our lifestyle and how we think we'd use the different spaces in our house. We talked about what we liked and what we didn't like. And we got a bit excited about all the possibilities. Well, okay, I got a lot excited about all the possibilities. 

4. The architect sent us a sketch design, a rough plan of the house. Basically a starting point to play with, to talk over; something to check we were all heading in the same direction. Seeing all those fragments of ideas come together in a drawing - of our house! - was pretty awesome. 

5. We went to council for approval (well technically our architect went to council for approval). The finalised sketch design was turned into a plan with all the lines and measurements and stuff that proper plans have. Then we had to get a bunch of reports, which our architect coordinated for us - geotechnical, water something-or-rather...my memory is a bit vague. But I do remember that there were a lot of invoices to pay. Come to think of it, my biggest learning so far is that this whole renovation thing involves a lot of paying of invoices.

6. We got council approval. Hooray! Our architect was great at advising us on things that would be giant red flags (like our original idea to add a second story to our garage), so we'd kind of compromised on things before we went to council. It meant that the plan we submitted was pretty inoffensive. Aside from one adjustment to a roof line, all was okay. 

7. Things started getting serious. Up till now it'd all been pretty pictures and scrap books, but to move forward we needed to zoom in on each room and really finalise the layouts. And to start making decisions about tap ware and floor finishes and lighting. So naturally I froze. I did absolutely nothing. I felt a bit overwhelmed by it all, completely overcome with indecision. But we met with our architect in Sydney last month and it was very reassuring and helpful. Although I guess I am still breaking out in a nervous sweat whenever I think about lighting. Or kitchen bench tops for that matter. 

Right now we are in the process of getting a council construction certificate and finalising the detailed plans and all the specifications. Then all that information will go out to tender, we pick a builder, they build, we pay another bazillion invoices and then we move in... Easy, right? 


The light at the top is the Muuto E27 pendant lamp in black. You can get it from Kido.


UPDATE: I just sent my husband an email about toilet options. I am totally turning in to Bill Murray's wife from Lost in Translation. At least it was just an email and not a box of carpet samples. Though to be fair we aren't actually having carpet in our house so...

06 March 2013

Things To Love About Korea #6: Socks

I was talking to another expat a while ago, and she told me that before she lived here herself she had a friend in Korea who'd constantly send her boxes of socks. She always thought it was a little odd...but then she moved here and it all made sense. 

Socks in Korea are plentiful, cheap, quirky and fun. You can't walk a block in Seoul without tripping over a sock stall, selling all kinds of awesome for two dollars or so a pair. There's polkadots, stripes, florals, bows and checks; funny faces, cartoon characters and yes, even Psy. 

As you can imagine, I've built up quite a collection...

01 March 2013

Death by Doxie : Elfi Makes a Sleeping Bag (Part 1)

Dachshunds were originally bred as hunting dogs, trained to track and flush out badgers and rabbits and other burrowing animals. I guess their stumpy little legs made it easier for them to fit down a rabbit hole, maybe? Anyway, for whatever reason, dachshunds still seem to like to burrow. The trait seems especially strong in shorthairs, and Elfi is no exception. She loves it when the bed sheets are strapped on tight so she can stick her nose in and make her way under the covers. And she loves to take a cushion and turn it in to a sleeping bag. And sometimes maybe take a bit of the stuffing out while she's at it. Ferdi helps, of course. Mainly by trying to eat her...