Friday, 31 October 2014

경복궁 와 대림 | Gyeongbokgung & Daelim

So, in the timeline of events, (rather than my horribly non-chronological blog posts) a few weeks after Chuseok Nick and I went on another day out with Rachel and Jamie, this time to Gyeongbokgung and the Daelim museum.

But first: food. Of course! ;D

In honour of Nick, we had bossam (boiled belly pork, what's not to like?) but this time rather than ssam (large salad leaves that you use to make a fajita-style wrap) we had crepe-like pancakes, effectively a thin, plain version of the jeon that we love to eat. It was super good, I'd definitely eat it like that again, but then I'm not even TRYING to convince myself it's healthy via all the salad I eat when we use ssam. ;p

So. Stuffed full of pork, ssamjang and pancakes (and soju) we went to the Daelim Museum where there was an art exhibit called "Persistent Illusions" by TROIKA, a UK-based art collective that'd I'd heard of before but never experienced.

This ominous sculpture greeted us in the main lobby/gift shop.

The rippling mirrors reminded me of The Imprisoned from Skyward Sword and generally made me feel kind of uncomfortable and scared for some reason. But I like it when art causes physical and emotional reactions, good or bad.

For the uninformed: This is The Imprisoned. It's creepy.
Anyway, we headed upstairs to the main exhibits and it quickly became clear that this place was all about the kind of big hipster non-statements that I absolutely adore, so this was very exciting for me.

Deep, man.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

The Saga of the Ovenless Officetel

You may or may not remember me lamenting, when I first moved into this apartment, the distinct lack of an oven. When I'm stressed, I bake, so what am I meant to do now? (The answer is avoid all other chores as usual, and sleep more.)

Anyway, since then I've been trying to find some alternatives to baking that will still produce cakes and other various confections that require an oven. Everyone else says to just buy one on GMarket, but even at the lowest quoted price of about 30,000 won, I don't want to spend all that for something I'll inevitably have to get rid of or leave behind when I leave Korea, not to mention the distinct lack of space we have for appliances.

So, my first adventure was with a banana bread recipe I found that uses a rice cooker. I've baked in a rice cooker before, back when I was big into Yakitate!! Japan and the manga provided a recipe for Azuma's suihanjapan, so I knew it was possible to bake actual bread with a thick crust, but what about a soft, spongey cake?

Turns out that's possible too! It'll take some work, considering baking products are either really hard to find here, or really expensive. In particular, butter and other dairy products aren't too cheap (which is why I'm not just making cheesecakes by the dozen) so the taste to me was a It kind of tasted too healthy. I've got a lot of brown sugar now, though (I keep forgetting to cross it off my mental shopping list, so I keep buying more and more bags of the stuff. Oops.) which might help with making the flavour a bit richer. All in all, it was pretty successful.

Now, there's also some sort of weird contraption in the apartment that just looks like either a) a toy or b) a metal box of doom, but either way I was kind of scared by it and so naturally just shoved it into a cupboard and tried to forget about its existence.

But then I had a thought. What if it was an oven? Or a toaster oven? I wasn't sure what a toaster oven was or what it did (other than, presumably, toast things) but I looked for a recipe and lo, toaster oven cupcakes are a thing.

I gave it a dubious whirl, and actually wasn't too disappointed.

They came out patchy and uneven, despite my efforts to rotate the tray and rearrange the cupcakes to sit in certain hotspots, but apparently the hotspots move. Huff.

I tried some though, and they were great. The sugar on top had gone crispy and the improvised bit of lemon juice I'd thrown in didn't really come through as lemon but it did add something nice and sweet. I took the least burnt ones into school the next day and the other teachers in my office said they tasted good, and nobody got sick afterwards, so I can only class that as a success, haha.

And finally, while I know it's not a cake, it's good to know of some other sweets I can whip up if need be, and our lovely friend Rachel inadvertently gave me a great idea. As she was moving back Stateside, she was emptying cupboards and during this process offered us a bag of what looked like cakey doughnut balls. They're made by Shany and came with a promising warning from Rachel that they taste kind of weird, but not in a bad way.

In snack desperation a few days later, I cracked open the bag and started eating and found out that, yes, they do indeed taste "kind of weird, but not in a bad way". They actually tasted kind of familiar and I wasn't sure why. It wasn't just the stale texture. There was something about the flavour and the crispy topping that reminded me of...

Sponge fingers. If there's one thing I've learnt from my Nan and family dinners, it's that sponge-based desserts are delicious and easy to make. So I thought I'd take a risk and make a sort of improvised tiramisu. And what do you know, it worked! The balls of sponge actually made portioning easier than the usual finger-shaped slabs you get, and I've got enough ingredients left over to make at least one more batch.

So, all is not lost in this sad, ovenless life. But I'm going to keep experimenting until I can get myself some decent roast potatoes!

Monday, 27 October 2014

Seoul Food | 찜닭 Jjimdak

So the other day we were helping Ziggy out with some post-production stuff, and so she treated us to dinner (too kind, too kind!) and shared with us the joys of a meal that I'm pretty sure I'll be going back to a lot in the winter.

Jjimdak is a big chicken dish that reminds me a little bit of chicken adobo, but a little tiny bit spicy and...well. More Korean. Throw in some glass noodles (Japchae noodles? Pancit?) and it's soooo good. Very hearty, warm, and filling.

As usual, the banchan dominates the majority of the table
It's enormous, especially for the price. We could definitely have comfortably had one if not two more people eating with us, but we're pigs.

We had bubble tea afterwards, despite my co-teacher's reprimanding that it's super bad for you and will most likely kill you (maybe a slight exaggeration). I'm sorry. I just can't get enough of that chewy boba.

Bonus photo: Dunkin' Desmond.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

7th Seoul Girls Collection Super Live

Subtitle: "How NOT to act at live events"
If there's two things I really enjoy watching, it's fashion and K-pop. So when Nick told me about the Seoul Girls Collection joint K-pop concert and fashion show, I was pretty excited!

The main draws for us were Girls Day and After School (because we like Orange Caramel, if I'm being honest) but there were plenty of big names performing, including BAP, 2PM, Teen Top, and Boyfriend.

I think that's where our first warning should have been.

When we arrived the venue was mostly empty, and we got talking to some lovely ladies from Israel who had been travelling around South Korea for the best part of a month, and had picked up some tickets on a whim. Apparently there was a foreigner's section somewhere but we'd gotten for the domestic section.

As the venue started to fill up a bit, the lights dimmed, and the most alarming music started to play. I'm not really sure what happened because it wasn't introduced very clearly (and if it was, it was in Korean) but a group of girls in bizarre clothing rushed out onto the stage and started to sing and dance. It took us a while to realise that the ParaPara style dancing, unusual getups and distressing synths went together with the fact they were singing in Japanese and inexplicably we were witnessing a J-pop concert.

They were very cute, if not scary, and after a couple of songs they were replaced by another J-pop band of girls in hockey masks and furry rave boots. I'm not sure what was happening and from the looks on a few peoples' faces, they weren't either. But it was enjoyable, and when they introduced themselves at the end we got to watch the most adorable show of one girl forgetting all her Korean, panicking, and resorting to crib notes WRITTEN ON HER WRIST. It was SO cute. It turns out several of them had a skin-based cheat sheet because the panic spread and they all ended up just reading from their wrists. I know that feel, bros.

Then, after a short break, we had an introduction from two very glamorously-dressed members of some of the Korean bands, and then finally some fashion! I'm sad that I didn't realise it would be okay to bring a larger camera, because my phone camera - wonderful as it is - definitely couldn't handle the brightness of the stage lights, so I ended up with very few shots that are actually usable.

As it was Autumn/Winter collections, there were a lot of nice-looking winter coats, and sports clothes, and fairly muted palettes.

It was fairly standard fashion show fare, the lovely models would come out and show us some clothes, we'd quietly make fun of the male models (they just all look so angry and upset!), then they'd all come back out with the designer for some applause.

I will say, for recent graduates or students who haven't even graduated yet, I really appreciated how great all of these collections looked. I preferred them a lot more to some of the brand-name parades that came out wearing just screen-printed sweatshirts and beanies.

Every few runs, there'd be a break for some music, and that's actually (sadly) what sucked all of the joy out of this event for me. It turns out that obsessive music fans are internationally rude and inconsiderate, not just ones at home.

This is very rapidly going to turn into a rant, because I really wanted to enjoy this show but thinking about it, I can't remember anything. Well, other than the terrible people that stood around me. That's really sad.

Part 1: Cameras.
As soon as the act came on, my great view (which actually became less great as time went on) would be totally obscured by thousands of phones and cameras rising into the air. Not just for a couple of snaps, either. People would spam the shutter button or just film the entire set, so I ended up more than once just having to watch it through a screen even though I was RIGHT THERE.

A level-up on this horror was the fact that a large number of people actually brought DSLRs to the show. Considering the last couple of things I've been to have been governed by SM Entertainment, where there's a strict no photos policy, I was pretty shocked to see them.

But I was even angrier for two reasons.
a) When I saw they didn't know how to use these hugely expensive and weighty cameras. The one in the photo above was something like a Canon 50d or 5d, and had an enormous telescopic lens on it. All in all it's AT LEAST £1000, but very likely much more. And she was abusing it. I could see the settings on that thing and they were wildly inappropriate for the location. Sorry not sorry for photo snobbing. I'm by no means a great photographer, but when your subject is moving very quickly on a very brightly lit stage, even I know that you don't have your ISO on upwards of 800 (but usually somewhere in the 1000s) and you really need your shutter going faster than 1/25. Really. Or if you're going to stick with that, don't look angry when all of your photos are blurry. And why are you reviewing and deleting while the show's going on?! Do it later! You're missing out on so many good shots! Running out of space? Get a memory card more suited to your camera or clear it out before you go to a show. *internal screaming*

On the flip side were the many others totally spamming that shutter button. Holding it down on continuous in the hopes that ONE photo will be okay. do realise your camera has a finite number of shutter clicks...right? You do realise that you're slowly killing your hugely expensive piece of equipment that I would kill to have, because you haven't made the slightest effort to learn how to use it, right? *more screaming*


b) I'm tall. I know I'm a pain to stand behind at gigs and events. I don't like it any more than you do because I spend the whole time wracked with guilt and my back aches and generally I'd prefer it if I could get seating or shrink a few inches. But that's life. I'm sorry that my height is inconveniencing you and your blurry photos but your way around this problem should NOT be this:

Yeah, she's resting that lens on my head. Yes, she brought a footstool to a gig, yes she also brought a huge backpack and was shoving people around left right and centre.

At more than one point one of her beloved boybands ran from one end of the stage to the other, and she followed at a high speed...through my head. I'm not going to lie, I actually turned around and shouted at her for that, because she'd already hit Nick and another poor guy in the head with it AND she's risking that beautiful lens, like come ON.

Her response? She bowed. And just carried on doing it. Gaaaaarghhhh!

Part 2: Crowd Etiquette.
So, here's the problem. You've got a 100% standing gig, packed with teenagers lusting after their favourite pop stars, in a venue that's pretty much just a free-for-all.

As soon as any band finished, there'd be a shift in the audience as people would decide to give up their spaces close to the stage either due to exhaustion, crushing, or just because they only came to see a specific act. Whenever this happened, there'd be a painful surge as everyone would then try to fill it, like some sort of weird human bottle of sand. The problem being that you've got about 1000 people trying to get into the space of maybe 50 people.

It was painful.

More than once I was elbowed and shoved, and more than once I went into a borderline panic attack because I was genuinely struggling to breathe from the crush. I don't want to think about what was happening to some of the poor girls there who were half my size. Part of the problem was people like the aformentioned douche, setting up photo studios in a packed crowd. A variation on this were the girls that were fed up of standing, so they'd decide to just sit. On the floor. Regardless of trampling.

One girl had to be removed through the crowd because she was collapsing. I don't know if she was swooning or just the heat and crush up at the front got to her, but the security guard ushering her through looked pretty fed up. When she got to the place where we were standing she genuinely fell to the floor and couldn't get up, and I was pretty much the only person who bothered to try and help her get out of that hell hole. Everyone else just seemed annoyed and some even kept trying to push past her.

Finally, the lack of sense you need to possess to try and push to the front when there's literally no space to fill is unbelievable but rife in the audiences of many events. Sigh.

Anyway, that's enough complaining, I'll finish up with the handful of photos I managed to get considering I allow myself only a few clicks for each artist.

For some reason, video had a lower exposure, so I tended to film the fashion walks.

I didn't mean to just rant for a whole post but I guess that's all I could remember. Girls Day were adorable but also clearly very popular because I definitely couldn't see for selfie sticks and mobile phones, compared to some of the other acts. Then again, their performance was far more slick and appealing than the others, too. It's funny, you really can see the difference in quality between groups at shows like this. That's not to say that the others are bad, but some are definitely stronger than others.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

혜화 와 낙산 | Naksan (again) & Filipino Market

A while ago, I'd read about a Filipino market that happens every Sunday in Hyehwa, selling food and sundries. I've been meaning to go for a while now, because I miss hearing Filipino being spoken on a regular basis, and I've been meaning to get some things like patis and sinigang sa sampalok mix so that I can a) spice up my cooking a bit, and b) let Nick try a few more Filipino foods considering he can't try my mum's cooking for quite a while.

So when our new (at the time, again I'm really behind on these posts) friend Ziggy offered to take us around, I was pretty stoked.

I will say, this has become a 'thing' now. Never expect to see a photo of Nick smiling while eating on this blog.

We settled at a stall selling hot food, very reminiscent of a Barrio Fiesta setup (i.e. I feel like I'm eating in my Tita's back garden under the table umbrella) and ordered a set meal of rice, ulam, and a spring roll. We also grabbed some bbq because oh my goodness.

Nick had menudo and I had pancit, and I think Ziggy had binagoongan but I'm not sure because I heard dinuguan so now that's all I can remember. Regardless, it was all really tasty and I'm pretty darn happy I went.

I was way too excited and ate too fast, so despite wanting both biko and banana Q, we ended up all just getting the banana (which was excellent, just the right amount of salty and sweet, but it's nothing compared to eating it with vanilla ice cream). While browsing the shops we all bought a big cup of iced coconut milk drink for about 1000 won each. Normally I'm not a huge coconut person, but this was SO GOOD. Now all I need to find is some gulaman. That green, green goodness.

I picked up a packet of bayleaves and peppercorns, to fill the gap that my adobo has been so sorely missing, and a sampalok mix packet, as well as some little bags of Mang Tomas. I wanted a bottle but nowhere seemed to have one, so I'll have to make do for now.

We moved on to a lovely cafe where we talked about films and a project we're currently working on (which I won't mention properly until it's left infancy and we've actually done something) and all sorts of things, before going to Baskin Robbins (when DON'T we go to BR?) because apparently it was Day 31 which is a regular special event whereupon when you make a purchase they upgrade you to the next size. Whaaaaat?! Turns out it's only for the large family packs, not your standard cones, but we were there so we bought ice cream anyway. Puss in Boots is EXCELLENT.

Then, what do you do when it's a nice day in Seoul and you're full to bursting with food? Of course, you climb a mountain. Of course. It was meant to be a nice tour around all the street art in Naksan but we turned it into location scouting mission and general hike of "how high can we climb?" with a directional sign promising us "amusement".

Turns out "amusement" leads us to a large open space, one of the many free outdoor gyms available all over Korea, and a great view of Seoul. Not bad, but not what I expected.

As appears to be quite common in SK, all of these high vantage points are great date spots, so I ended up with all my landscape photos looking like dramatic romance shots from k-dramas.

After a great sunset, we decided to go back down to the station, taking a route that we thought would be more scenic. It was, however it turned out to be the biggest detour, as we were blocked all along one side by what I can only assume was one of the big walls of Ye Olde Korea. The next opening would presumably be something ridiculous like Dongdaemun.

It wasn't, because it's big, old, and there's not enough room in Korea to be hemmed in by such arbitrary things as walls, so eventually a main road punched through, which we followed to a subway station.

We played around and took some photos of my new Aladdin leggings c/o Black Milk
FOR SOME UNKNOWN REASON we really, really wanted McDonalds. Why. Why does anyone EVER want McDonalds. I promised myself I'd already eaten a load, so I'd just buy a pack of fries, so of course I ordered a McNuggets meal. OF COURSE.

Presumably that wasn't enough, because we then went to Cold Stone Creamery for dessert. I've heard about this franchise before, mainly just through people praising it, so I've been wanting to go for a while now. My bucket list of unhealthy eateries is now longer than my presumed lifespan if I visit them all.

Oh well. I'd rather live a short, happy life full of good food than a long, dreary life of celery.

Cold Stone Creamery is interesting in that, you choose your cone, you choose your ice cream flavour, and then a topping (or more if you want to pay extra) and they kind of...teppanyaki it up. That's an obscure analogy. They kind of scoop your super soft, gelato-esque ice cream onto a metal work surface, then add your toppings, and use two spatulas to combine it all, almost like making your own personalised flavour. It's so good, because this way you don't end up eating all of your toppings right at the start. By far, it's my favourite ice cream I've had since coming here.

Anyway, after all that, it was getting late, so I guess we decided to go home before we got stuck in the station with no choice but to eat even more food. Man, I love food.

Monday, 20 October 2014

An Etude House Love Affair

What follows is a long and boring story about skincare, so if you're not into seeing pictures of my face and bottles, I'd skip this post, hahah.

I've always had bad skin. As soon as I hit about 10, my hair went curly and greasy, and my skin wasn't far behind in breaking out all over the place.
I had no idea what to do, and neither did my mum, who has always had naturally straight hair and healthy skin. I was also pretty lazy and hated all the faff that went into cleaning your face "properly", insisted any soap stung my eyes, and didn't like drinking water. Also, I picked. Pick, pick, pick. In short, I was a nightmare.

As I got older, I didn't really do much to fix this. My family would buy me toiletries full of teatree (which I detested), witch hazel (which was quite nice but sticky), and various other lotions and potions that either didn't work, or I was too lazy to use regularly enough for them to work. Combined with what I now know is probably dermatillomania my skin was far from perfect.

Over the years the spots seemed to slide down my face, congregating on my chin, neck and chest, rather than the nose and temples of my younger years. But the damage was done, and like exercise the longer you leave it and ignore it, the harder it is to do anything about it.

Enter Etude House. My knight in shining armour and cute, frilly princess packaging. I discovered the brand via this very helpful journal entry by BehindInfinity, one of my absolute favourite cosplayers (along with the rest of TuxTeam) and general internet angel. I learnt a lot about skincare from that one post and it inspired me to actually try and do something for once.

I went to buy some of the products mentioned, and had to turn to the internet because they were all Asian brands that for some reason don't get sold in the UK. Ugh. Thankfully, Cosmetic Love are a pretty reputable online store specialising in Korean cosmetics, and actually have pretty decent prices for that matter. Rather than risk anything cheaper on eBay, I went for it, picking up a few extra pieces that I thought were cute or sounded good.

(side note: Cosmetic Love were great. They shipped everything out really quickly in as small a box as possible, and also crammed any gaps left full of samples. My eternal shopping love goes out to them and I would definitely recommend trying them if you're in the UK wanting to try some Korean brands.)

So, here's my current (and rapidly expanding) stock of things-I-use-on-my-face:

Friday, 17 October 2014

Super Junior: Super Show 6

This is actually the only photo I managed to take.
I love seeing Super Junior live. They're always so entertaining and so weird that they're well worth the money you pay. It was fun seeing it in Seoul, too, because it meant I got to see all the really intricate sets and things that I reckon they wouldn't be able to afford to ship to the UK if they actually managed to come over.

The gig was at the old Seoul Olympic stadiums, and the weather was wonderful. The venue was actually really great as long as you're not too bad with heights, because the steps were VERY steep, but it meant that actually everyone could see really well.

The only reason I didn't get a photo is because the usual SM rules were in place. No photos. And after seeing security people actively get people to delete any photos they'd taken (although they kindly didn't wipe your gallery and allowed you to keep selfies, contrary to what I've heard before) even during the show - targeting people they'd spotted with a laser pen and hunting them down pretty diligently - I didn't want to risk it.

But, because there were some incredible things to share, I'll use some found images. As usual, if it's yours and you want me to take it down, just ask~

Also, if you're thinking of seeing the tour in another country and don't want it spoiled for you, I'd recommend skipping this post, because it really is so much better to be surprised by these things. I laughed SO much.

As usual, it was the most ridiculous, energetic, funny, engaging and extravagant performance, with a storyline for the first act, seemingly-constant fireworks and laser shows, tons of costume changes and the...erm...usual drag act. Haha. Here's the official trailer, which doesn't really do it justice:

Okay, so I'm struggling to find any photos now, and enough writing should have passed for the people who don't want to be spoilt to have closed their tabs, so I'll just cut to the best two bits (in my opinion). Firstly, Siwon, in a furry horse costume, dancing to a rather unusual song. From the fact that everyone else started cheering and singing along, I'll assume it was a big hit in Korea, but for us it was just a bit like...what?!

After the show, Nick looked up the song and found the original they'd covered, which it turns out is just as strange and explains the horse costume a little bit more. (Other than the fact that the title 야생마 means something to do with wild horses.)

So, uh, yeah. There's that. In addition to this, there was a large segment where Shindong dressed as Olaf from Frozen. As with the rest of the world, South Korea has been totally swamped with Frozen hype, so it made a lot of sense for them to reference it in their show...but I wasn't expecting this.

He introduced the 'competition', which started off with the rest of the group in a darkened room and talking about how they would interpret Elsa, a la Stars in Their Eyes. "Tonight, Shindong, I'm going to be...Elsa Jackson."



nabbed from @SIWONstorm on Twitter
I also found this GIF floating around on Tumblr, displaying quite nicely the reason why I was so outraged by seeing Leeteuk in that sparkly minidress.

Anyway. That's pretty much all I have to say, hahaha. Go and see SuJu live if you can. Just go. If nobody will go with you, go alone. But make sure you go.

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