Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Korea, part 1

Well, my first trip into the lovely country of Korea was a day trip to Osan. That was a good four hour drive, which put me in a lovely mood since I couldn't sleep and wasn't in the mood to read. However, the scenery was amazing. I'm a midwestern girl so I grew up mostly on flat ground. Rolling hills in the distance misted with faint fog or high green hills nearby breaking up the monotomy of the faintly colored towns would have held me in awe had I been in a better mood. As it was I enjoyed the views but not as well as I should have and I didn't take pictures either. (There was more to my annoyance than just a four hour bus ride. We were told last minute we needed some stuff some of us didn't have so we had to run around figuring that out and I hate running around last minute because someone else screwed up. So fun.) Needless to say, by the time we got there, I was not in a good mood and I had skipped breakfast to get on the bus so I was also hungry. Finally after one in the afternoon I'd had enough and basically yelled at my buddy that we were going to eat NOW. For those of you who know me, having me in a mood where I basically yell at a person takes a lot and quite shocked her. However, we walked straight into McDonalds and ate. (She was surprised but not really upset that I'd snapped at her as she gets the same way over food, just more often.) I had a shrimp patty sandwich that was surprisingly good. I'd ordered it because I was in a different country and wasn't in the mood to eat the usual American fast food. However, the food quickly disappeared and we continued shopping. One of the big things to get in Osan are mink blankets. I originally thought they were the animal pellets but when we got there I found out they looked like fleece with all their dyed patterns of animals or scenes. I remember my friend was debating getting a Dora the Explorer blanket or a Disney Princess one for her daughter. She decided instead to pick up two blankets with different colored small dragon patterns for her aunts. Next door there was a store that sold Korean paper art so I walked around in there looking at the origami set up in delightful frames showing typical Korean scenes such as little girls in fancy dress and kids playing around or couples looking lovingly at each other. It was quite lovely. Anyways, my friend got her blankets for under a hundred dollars together and we continued. I was still hungry so I stopped at a street stall and picked up _____ mando. (I forget the first word) It was basically an egg roll but instead of being rolled in a tube, it's put on one side of a circle of dough and the other side is pressed on to it before it is fried on order and handed to the buyer super hot. Hmm... that was good although not a smart buy right after McDonalds. I could only eat about half of it before I was too full to stuff more in. However, for $4 it wasn't bad. of course that was before everyone told me to absolutely never buy food from a street vender, which sucks. Half the fun of visiting these countries is the food and it's easiest to get multipul types of food from the venders instead of from the restarauntes that only sell one type of food. (spicy, Korean BBQ (which I still have not gotten :( ), noodles, Chinese...)
Well, that was all for that trip. Korea had awesome shopping, I also picked up a large suitcase to put all my trinkets in for this trip for under 50 dollars. not bad.
Well, this is Li'l B signing off and wishing you all a lovely Holy Week and Happy Easter.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Valentine's Day in Japan

Yes, I know this is very out of date and I apologize. I have been feeling lazy lately and computers have been full whenever I did get in the mood to write in the past three weeks.
Now for those of you in the States, you may not know about the Japanese (I think the started it although I saw it in Korea as well) tradition of V-Day and White day. Valentine's day is the day that women give the guys stuff, often chocolate, and White Day is the day men are supposed to give the women a gift three times as expensive. One "tradition" I found amusing when I learned of White Day was that daughters often spent a lot on their dads in hopes of getting jewelry or an expensive handbag. Another thing is that men supposedly aren't big on chocolate. Wives present the chocolate to husbands and then eat it all "secretly". Anyways, White Day was March 14th for those curious and I wasn't in Japan then so this is more about how I spent V-day, (or as my brother called it once: Gimme-chocolate-or-be-in-the-doghouse-for-weeks Day, or something like that.)
One of the aspects of Valentine's Day gifts in Japan is that handmade gifts mean stronger emotions. I was excited to discover that the idea included handmade chocolates. For those of you who know my family, you probably know my mom is what is called a "chocolatier" (I think that's spelled right). That means she makes her own chocolate candies, usually by hand. (I don't know if people who use machines to help make their chocolates still count as chocolatiers, which is where the "usually" came in. My mom always makes her candies by hand.) She's done her candies every year since before I was born, or so it seems, and every year I was home I used to watch her or help her make them. My help usually consisted of moving trays and keeping her company (or watching tv until she needed a tray moved). This year I spent all Christmas away from home and missed the typical mess (and candy) that accompanied the process. (yes, they sent me some of the product from the annual batch but I realized I missed the process itself.) So I went to the mall and picked up three different types of milk chocolate and two accompanying types of dark chocolate as well as some candies to nibble on as I worked and some glass bowls to work with and utensils to play with in the chocolate. Then I went to the grocery store for some things to dip before heading to my friend's hotel room to use her stove. On V-Day I made dipped banana slices, the ones already dried, and dipped dried apricots as well as dipped raisens and peanuts, even a few small molds. The milk chocolate I used that day was a little too sour for my taste, thinking back it either had more cacao than I prefer or was baking chocolate. Either way they were liked. I tried to make barks but the chocolate didn't want to set so it ended up weird. Oh well, the point of the attempts was to play with the chocolate, not to make something to give anyone specail. I wound up bringing the candies into work to find out most of my coworkers are on perpetual diets. Yay. Three pleople eating a few dozen small pieces of chocolate dipped fruit was why I brought the box in. I love people who look fine but want to be perfect forever. Well, enough of that rant, the next weekend I tried a type of chocolate called Ghana that made exellent dipped candies and we ate it all up. Well, that was my Valentine's Day and I need to run for food now so I'll tell you about Korea another time. Stay tuned. :)
This is Li'l B wishing you all a fun day and signing off.