Well Hello There Winter

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This autumn was incredibly mild and long lasting. I remember walking around on November 30th and thinking, “Wow, I still don’t even need a heavy coat yet.” Well, December apparently wanted everybody to know of its arrival because it was cold. Also, it snowed. Snowed! It was actually pretty exciting. I immediately broke out the Christmas tunes and strolled into Starbucks for a Christmas-themed beverage.

My little (fake) Christmas tree! I probably should have turned the lights on..

My little (fake) Christmas tree! I probably should have turned the lights on..

Eight days of freezing weather and three two snowfalls later, I’m less enthusiastic about this whole winter wonderland deal going on. I wear gloves while at work, and I walk around with a scarf wrapped around my face most of the time. However, I did purchase a giant tub of dairy free hot chocolate mix and peppermint extract. So, yes. Silver linings.

A snowy walk to work this morning.

A snowy walk to work this morning.

At some point, I’d like to talk about Once Upon a Time. Like oh my goodness, how has it taken me this long to watch this incredible show?! I’m about halfway through the first season, so there’s still so much for me to watch. Side note, oh my goodness how has my boyfriend watched the entire series thus far already? How does he find time for these things? Why is he watching this show? So many unanswered questions. Also, so many guest appearances! Jamie Dornan! Sebastian Stan?! I can totally get behind this.

Watching so many episodes in rapid succession makes you realize how many people pseudo cry in every episode. Cue sad violin. Close up. Shed a single tear.

Watching so many episodes in rapid succession makes you realize how many people pseudo cry in every episode. Cue sad violin. Close up. Shed a single tear.

I’d also at some point like to discuss the new Bioware game, Dragon Age Inquisition. I’ve sort of avoided talking about video games because I feel like I’m not ‘qualified’ enough to talk about them. But hey, I talk about things I’m not qualified to talk about all the time anyway. I’ve been loving on that game and its series for some time now, but I’ve been avoiding reading about it because I don’t want anything spoiled. So I’m excited to see what others are saying.

This game has so many serious sounding decisions. I'm bad at making decisions.

This game has so many serious sounding decisions. I’m bad at making decisions.

And finally, vacation! I’m heading to the Philippines for two weeks with a group of friends. So far we’ve tentatively settled on Bohol and El Nido, but nothing is set in stone. We’ve kind of agreed to stay out of Boracay this time, but if you have any suggestions, do add them.

Saying Goodbye to Autumn

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The last of the leaves are falling, and the days are getting colder. Things are really starting to feel wintery. Normally, I really loathe this time of year. I’m not a fan of cold weather, and I’m constantly getting sick from being indoors so frequently. However, I have to say I’m actually looking forward to this winter.

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                   Red Leaves <3

Winter is becoming a time for me to relax. Since I am no longer a student, my work hours are at a normal time. So I’m able to spend my evenings and weekends staying in and enjoying alone time. I read more books, watch more movies, and play more video games. It’s a nice change of pace for me as I’ve always dedicated my nights and weekends to sports practices or after school jobs.

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I think stairs actually make hiking more difficult.

I’m a person who gets flustered very easily. If I feel like I’m running late, I can actually feel my heart pounding as I try and race out the door. If I’m worried about a deadline or an assignment, I’ll stay up in bed obsessing over it. I’ve been taking on various additional projects lately, and I feel myself stressing out a bit more.

My contract also finishes up in February, and I’ve yet to sort out a solid plan for the future. I’ve been tossing around ideas of places to live, whether I want to further my education, and how on Earth to carry on a relationship as an American with a EU citizen (seriously visas. wtf). It’s been a lot to deal with.

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Hats, gloves, scarves, and coats. I actually wear this while I’m at work, too.

Fortunately, when I feel like my mind is going to implode from too many thoughts and concerns, I’ve got a mama to put it all right. I swear it’s like a broken record. I will always call her when I’m upset and she always reassures me in the exact same way. And it always works. Until I work myself up again and call her up. Lather. Rinse…

Can't believe I'm almost done teaching these kiddies.

Can’t believe I’m almost done teaching these kiddies.

Anyway, I’ve decided that this winter is going to be my season. I’m going to use the excuse to be indoors to spend time on myself, to decompress, and to relax. I’m going to sip hot cocoa, read some good books, play Dragon Age: Inquisition, watch Netflix, and try and love this crazy cold weather. Until January. And then I’m going to escape to a warm island in the Philippines for a few weeks. Because seriously, I hate cold weather.

Let Them Eat Cake

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Today is the first genuinely cold day of the year. Autumn is slowly ending, and soon all of the pretty leaves and cool afternoons will be gone and replaced with a rather gloomy winter. Evening runs and afternoon walks will end and hibernation mode will commence. Around this time, my sweet tooth kicks in full force. After all, if I’m going to be getting cozy under a mountain of blankets, wouldn’t sweet treats make it even better?

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An afternoon walk on the university campus. The last of the leaves are falling.

Well, I’m still in vegan mode, and since there isn’t a vegan bakery around the corner (or across the city…) I’ve taken matters into my own hands. And by that I mean I’ve been giving baking a go! My boyfriend had purchased me a pumpkin for Halloween, and it’s been sitting prettily for a few weeks now. Craving pumpkin spice like a madwoman (I think the Korean Starbucks alternative is chestnut flavor which is definitely not the same thing), I turned to Google to find a vegan pumpkin spice cookie recipe.

Roasted pumpkins! The scent was incredible; better than any candle.

Roasted pumpkins! The scent was incredible; better than any candle.

For my baking experiment, I heavily modified this recipe from The Minimalist Baker as I couldn’t get my hands on vegan butter, pumpkin pie spice, almond milk or cornstarch. While I’m by no means an experienced baker or cook, even I had to foresight to know the recipe would not turn out properly without a solid fat (I only had a vegetable oil on hand). However, I wanted a dessert and I wasn’t going to let something like a complete lack of proper and necessary ingredients stop me.

Take 1: cookies turned pancakes.

Take 1: cookies turned pancakes.

I roasted my pumpkin at around 175 degrees Celsius for 45 minutes, let it cool, and blended it. It smelled heavenly. I combined my brown and white sugar, oil, vanilla extract and puree in a bowl. I added the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. I instantly knew the batter was too thin to turn into a cookie, but I gave it a go.The result was more pancake than cookie. Which gave me an idea. Pancake? Pan…cake. Cake! I added some more flour and let the dough chill in the refrigerator.

Note: I actually don’t know if a cake batter has more flour than a cookie dough. It just seemed like a good idea at the time.

Take 2: Cake! It's quite blurry because I think I was so excited it turned out looking like an actual cake.

Take 2: Cake! It’s quite blurry because I think I was so excited it turned out looking like an actual cake.

Anyway, I baked the ‘cake’ at 190 degrees Celsius for 10 minutes, and it looked great. I made a Maple Cinnamon Glaze, and once the cake cooled, I drizzled it on top. Considering the fact that this was a poor attempt at making a cookies, I must say the end result was pretty tasty! I offered out slices to various friends, and everyone agreed. I think this proves that there really isn’t a way to make a bad pumpkin spice dessert. ;)

The end result. I had already stolen a slice. I couldn't resist!

The end result. I had already stolen a slice. I couldn’t resist!

Anyway if you’re going to attempt to recreate this …. ehm … masterpiece, you will need

For the cake

- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
– 1/2 brown sugar
– 1/2 cup white sugar
– 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
– 1/2 cup pureed pumpkin
– 2 cups wheat flour
– 1 tsp baking powder
– 1/2 tsp baking soda
– dash of salt (approx. 1/8 tsp)
– 2 tsp cinnamon (I love cinnamon. Adjust to your preference.)

For the Maple Cinnamon Glaze

- 1/4 cup powdered sugar (I just blended white sugar until it made a fine powder)
– 1/4 maple syrup (real syrup, not the fake kind!)
– 1/2 tsp cinnamon
-1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Full disclosure: I didn’t measure my ingredients exactly. I know it’s paramount in baking, but I was mostly doing this to see if the flavors would work and what the oil would do. Believe me when I say I was surprised how well the end result turned out!

What are your favorite fall and winter treats? I just got my hands on a bag of vegan chocolate chips, and I can’t wait to put them to good use.

Work Life

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In case you were unaware, I’m a teacher. Yes, I am an educator of some of the finest youths on this planet. By that I mean, I get to play with some of my favorite little humans ever on a daily basis.

I saw these on display in the hallway the other day.

I saw these student artworks on display in the hallway the other day.

Yes of course we have regular lessons, but I try to make them as fun as possible. These kiddies work really hard in school, and then they go off to after school academies into the evening (something I could go on and on and on about). And they’re still babies with bundles of energy to expend.

4th grade gifted math class. I don't think I had ever even heard the word 'fractal' when I was 10...

4th grade gifted math class. I don’t think I had ever even heard the word ‘fractal’ when I was 10…

Halloween isn’t a very big holiday here in Korea, so I made sure to take some time to let the kids have fun. Yesterday, I let the 3rd graders (my youngest grade) terrorize each other as mummies. If you give a kid a chance to wrap his comrade in TP, there’s no way anything could possibly go wrong.

Me: We're going to make mummies today. Students: Mommies?!

Me: We’re going to make mummies today.
Students: Mommies?!

This sweet boy has been overtaken by the ladies. If only he knew what's to come..

This sweet boy has been overtaken by the ladies. If only he knew what’s to come..

I call my students my

I call my students my Army of Minions. Not without good reason.

One Lovely Blog

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I’ve been nominated by the always wonderful L at thoughtsandthings1 who blogs a melange of favorites, advice, and more personal matters beautifully. Thanks lady! Please check out her blog as it really is worth it!!

The Rules:

  1. You must display the award logo at the top of the post.
  2. You must thank the person/people who nominated you and leave a link to their blog in your post.
  3. You must add this set of rules so your nominees will know what to do.
  4. You must add 7 facts about yourself in the post.
  5. You must nominate 5 other blogs and leave links to their blogs in the post.
  6. You must let the people know you’ve nominated them.
  7. You must follow the person who nominated you on Bloglovin (I don’t actually think I have this. If I don’t even know how should you know? Some rules are meant to be broken, right?)

Without further ado..

7 Facts About Me:

1) While I’m generally fond of all animals, I have a special place in my heart for cats. I desperately want to get my hands on a black and white one and name him Poirot.

2) I’m a pretty avid videogamer. As in I play video games. Not particularly well, but I’ve been enjoying console games my whole life.

3) I love reading and am constantly on the hunt for new books. If you ever read something and love it, please pass it my way!

4) I’m a sucker for a cinched waist. My body is a typical hourglass so I find a cinched waist and fuller skirt the most flattering.

5) One of my go to shows is Parks and Recreation. My friends say I’m an April Ludgate though I secretly wish I was a Leslie Knope.

6) I prefer to eat with chopsticks. In Korea, you’re given a chopsticks and spoon (to use like a knife). I enjoy this and do it at home as well.

7) I prefer the new Taylor Swift to the old Taylor Swift in terms of music and style. (This is a terrible fact. I just ran out of things to say)

My Nominees: 

Queen Beady – She has a killer fashion sense. From girly dresses to fierce prints, she owns it all.

Bourbon and Blueberries – If you’re not hungry by the time you’re through looking at her photos, there’s something wrong with you. Mouth. Watering.

Robo Heartbeat – I’ve been following her blog since forever, and she feeds my geek soul with her well thought out and detailed blog entries. She’s awesome!

With Love From Opal – She writes elegantly and honestly about some very important topics. Very inspiring.

The Kittchen – Another blog I’ve been following for ages. She always posts easy and delicious recipes. They’re definitely worth trying!!

Ladies, I nominated you because I truly enjoy reading your blogs! It’s not necessary to respond, but I thought I’d share the love! Happy Hump Day. :)

28 Days Later

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I’ve been trying this vegan deal for almost a month now, and it’s been easier and harder than I expected for different reasons. I previously mentioned the fact that Korea isn’t the most vegan friendly country, but I knew that when i began this journey. I didn’t realize, however, how much my palate has become accustomed to bold flavors and salt or how much I really love microwave popcorn (that sadly only comes in a butter variety). I also never could have predicted how much I would google “Is _____ vegan?”. The list goes on.

Now that autumn has finally settled in, it’s been getting colder, especially in the mornings. Throughout the summer, and when I started going vegan, I would feast on fruit for breakfast. I would go through five bananas or apples, or I’d make a smoothie from frozen berries and bananas. Now that the chill has started, the cravings for a warm breakfast have began. Funnily enough, the desire to stay in bed an extra 30 minutes has also commenced (shock). This problem is normally solved by grabbing a toasted bagel with cream cheese on the way to work, but that’s not happening these days. I DO however have a very large stash of oatmeal in the cupboard that I will break out when my hunger finally outweighs my laziness.

Animals know I've been cruelty-free lately. This pretty lady followed me home the other day.

Animals know I’ve been cruelty-free lately. This pretty lady followed me home the other day.

I love carbs. This isn’t exactly a new discovery, but eating vegan has made carbohydrates the indisputable staple of my diet. Rice, potatoes, pasta, bread, I love and eat all of them in equal amounts. I think I’ve gone through like 2 kilos of rice in the past two weeks. In addition, I’ve realized how much I love seaweed. I throw it in practically everything. I can’t keep enough of it in my house. I don’t add salt when I cook, so seaweed adds the perfect amount for me.

Sometimes you have to be lenient. Whenever I buy something, unless it’s a straight up fruit or vegetable, there really isn’t a way for me to know if it’s 100% vegan. I can ask, sure, but that isn’t really assuring. Last week someone handed me a spicy pork roll, and when I kindly declined because of the pork and cheese in it, they handed me something ‘friendly for non-meat eaters’. I opened it, and saw instead of spicy pork there was Spam, egg, and cheese. I haven’t been eating out, but I have friends who would order things without meat and promptly receive a seafood dish instead.

So yes, it’s been an experience, but it’s 100% been worth it. My energy is up, and I honestly feel good about the food decisions that I make. Whether or not I remain vegan in the future remains to be seen, but I really am enjoying the lifestyle currently. Please feel free to share vegan recipes and your favorite vegan bloggers along with any tips!

Vegan Eats

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Since I’m a couple of days into the month of veganism, I thought I’d share some of the food I’ve been eating lately. Eating out in Korea is wildly difficult as virtually everything comes with egg, meat, a seafood stock, a chicken sauce, etc. There aren’t juice bars around the city. The supermarket shelves aren’t stocked with varieties of hummus, vegan curries, coconut milk ice cream or faux cheese. So everything that I eat, I make myself, which is a bit of a challenge. (I’m not much in the kitchen).

Quick breakfast of 2 apples + mango juice.

Quick breakfast of 2 apples + mango juice.

This week, I’ve been loving on some (okay a lot of) carbs! I’ve been getting them in the form of fruit, pasta, rice, oats, and potatoes. Coming to Korea has taught me to respect the staples. I used to insist on eating something different for every meal every day. Variety is the spice of life no? But in Korea, lunch always consists of white rice, kimchi, and soup. Every day, white rice, kimchi, soup. I got used to expecting this combo, and it started to be weird when I didn’t have it for lunch. Eating out for dinner would often include, surprise, white rice and kimchi.  It’s been a year and a half, and I still love these foods.

Breakfast ice cream smoothie - 2 frozen banans + 1 ripe banana + vanilla and almond milk and frozen blueberries

Breakfast ice cream smoothie – 2 frozen banans + 1 ripe banana + vanilla and almond milk and frozen blueberries

Now I have no problem eating the same dinner two days in a row or even the same meal for lunch and dinner. Today for instance, my lunch is two vegan burritos leftover from dinner last night. Tonight’s dinner will likely be the remaining burritos, and I will happily eat them. A lot of my meals this week have been pasta dishes with veggies or potatoes with veggies or rice with veggies. I do eat a lot of fruit, especially in the mornings, and I make sure to get in some protein via beans or but butters. However, my main goal is to get in enough nutrients and calories. A day might look this:

Pasta + veggies (tomato, carrot, corn, seaweed, onion) tossed in olive oil and marmite for added saltiness and B vitamins

Pasta + veggies (tomato, carrot, corn, seaweed, onion) tossed in olive oil and marmite for added saltiness and B vitamins

Breakfast: 4 ripe bananas (If it’s yellow, I won’t eat it. I buy yellow bananas and let them sit for about 5 days.)

Snack: Apple with 2 tbsp of peanut butter

Lunch About 1.5 cups of pasta with veggies cooked in olive oil.

Snack: Fruit (apples, oranges, bananas, grapes, etc.)

Dinner: 2-3 veggie burritos (I use the flour fajita tortillas) made with rice, beans, peppers, mushrooms, onions, and garlic.

I also make sure I stay hyrdated as usual by drinking 2-3 liters of water each day.

An Exercise Story

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Exercise. It’s something they say we should be doing for 30 minutes a day or 3 times a week or 5 times a week depending on who ‘they’ are. It’s also a word that used to always give me trouble spelling…  Anyway, yes, exercise.

Growing up, I was always pretty active. I’d run around and play with my friends outside, ride bikes, and go swimming. I was also active in team sports, playing softball and volleyball through high school.

It wasn’t until I got to college when I first set foot in a gym. I was like a lost child. There were so many machines I had no idea how to operate, free weights, treadmills, rowing machines, ellipticals, and bikes. I had no idea where to even begin. Working out and staying active never felt like a chore before. Suddenly, it began to feel that way, and I spent most of my time at school half halfheartedly trucking along on the elliptical for 45 minutes and trying to figure out the correct way to do tricep dips. It was kind of a bummer.

Senior year of college, I decided to try and take up a few exercise classes. I tried Pilates for a few weeks, but quickly realized I lacked the core strength to carry out any of the moves. I took yoga and boot camp as elective classes, and I did quite enjoy both. Yoga greatly improved my flexibility, and I don’t think I ever felt as sore or broke such a sweat before boot camp.

Then I moved Korea and had no idea how to even begin to look for a gym. I decided to bite the bullet and try running. I always hated running. It was boring, repetitive, and painful. It probably didn’t help that all of my former coaches used running as a form of punishment (I began associating running with something bad).

post half-marathon

post half-marathon

Anyway, I tried running, and it was (predictably) terrible. I think I was running a mile every few days at the beginning of 2013. Not much of a workout, but at least I was trying, right? Finally, a runner friend convinced me to sign up for a race as motivation, and starting in the summer, I ran with a purpose. It changed everything. Suddenly I was pushing myself, drawing out runs to make them longer. I was running farther and faster than I ever thought I would. I ran my first 5K. Then I ran my first 10K. And I was hooked. I could get behind this running thing.

At some point I foolishly thought I could take on a half marathon. I must have still been riding that runner’s high from the 10K. I should have realized that my body was still adjusting to running distances, and a half marathon was not only twice as long, but twice as hard on my body. Long story short, I undertrained. I completed the half marathon (in about 2 hours), and I felt great about it, but my body didn’t. I ended up developing tendinitis (or at least that’s what the Korean doctor said in broken English) and had to give up running for a few months while I went in for treatment.

High school volleyball. Please excuse the fake tan....

High school volleyball. Please excuse the fake tan….

At the beginning of 2014, just when I was about feeling ready to take up running, I got sick. I started to have problems with my thyroid, and was left feeling tired, weak, and sick for months. I spent a lot of time in bed and at the doctor,and I lost a lot of weight. I could actually feel my body weaken.

I started to feel significantly better around May, and started to take walks regularly. Then I introduced some light cardio. Eventually I felt good enough to try something more intense, and I would (very slowly) do Insanity workouts, although I never completed them at first. I just felt like my whole body needed to be worked, and it seemed like a decent option. After about 2 months, I was finally able to make my way through the easier ones.

Color Me Rad 5K. Fun to run, less fun to get clean after.

Color Me Rad 5K. Fun to run, less fun to get clean after.

About a month and a half ago, I started running again. It was hard. It felt like I had never run before, and it was kind of discouraging. A year ago, I was training for races, and here I couldn’t even do a few laps around a track. But, I stuck with it. I’m currently running about 2.5-3 miles about 3 times a week now and it feels good. I’m slowly getting back to where I was, and I think the most important thing is to listen to my body and understand what it can and can’t do. I’m hoping to run a 10K by the end of November, which will be exactly a year since I ran the half marathon. Let’s hope this race goes better.:)

A New Kind of Challenge

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Full disclosure: I’m not much of a meat eater.  I do love Italian smoked and cured meats. Especially in sandwich form. But honestly, I could easily do without. The reason I’ve never committed myself to a vegetarian lifestyle is because, well, I never wanted to limit myself or inconvenience anyone.

I don’t ever cook meat for myself, and I won’t go out of my way to order it when I’m out. However, I never wanted to be the person saying ‘No we can’t go out for burgers.’ or ‘Sorry, I can’t eat any of the chicken you prepared.’ Honestly, I don’t even really like chicken, but if someone has gone through the effort of cooking it, of course I’m going to eat it. And sure, there are times when I think “hmm I really would like a carnitas burrito“. I mean, I do enjoy meat from time to time, but it isn’t and has never been the be all end all for me.

This month is winding down with visits to some favorite (non vegan) spots. Pad Thai and Tom Yum Goong Soup.

This month is winding down with visits to some favorite (non vegan) spots. Pad Thai and Tom Yum Goong Soup.

Dairy is something else entirely. I don’t drink milk, but I love yogurt, ice cream, and cheese. This year, though, I’ve unintentionally reduced my dairy consumption simply because quality products are hard to come by.

I’ve been dealing with a lot of health issues this year, and I’m finally starting to feel strong again. At first, walking was a struggle. Then I started to introduce gentle cardio. Last month, I finally began running again, and I’m really pleased. I’m currently comfortable with running 2-3 miles each time. Is it where I thought I would be a year ago? No, but life throws hurdles at us and we overcome them and adjust.

Bountiful blueberry bingsu. No ice cream soon, but I find blending ripe frozen bananas with vanilla creates a delicious and easy alternative.

Bountiful blueberry bingsu. No ice cream soon, but I find blending ripe frozen bananas with vanilla creates a delicious and easy alternative.

So, in an effort to revamp my life and give myself a little health boost, I’m participating in an October Vegan Challenge with some friends. That means for the whole month I will be eating animal product free foods. Moreover, I will be trying to cook for myself creatively and healthfully.

As I’ve said before, I tend to eat how I feel. If I feel sick, I will eat poorly. I’m hoping that by improving my skills at cooking healthfully and quickly, I won’t ever feel the need to rely on pretzels and candy bars again when I’m ‘too sick’ to cook.

This challenge is about health and happiness. I'm still not strong enough to run races, but I was proudly supporting friends running in the 5K, 10K, half and full marathons. I was so inspired by everyone's dedication and the overall energy.

I’m still not strong enough to run races, but I was proudly supporting friends running in the 5K, 10K, half and full marathons. I was so inspired by everyone’s dedication and the overall energy.

If this challenge is something that interests you, feel free to join along for the whole month, a week, or a day. This challenge is about being cruelty free towards animals and also nourishing and revitalizing for the body. I’m really excited about it.

Orange Sky

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Sometimes it’s just a mellow music kind of a day. I purchased Alexi Murdoch’s album Time Without Consequence and have been listening to it all day. I especially love this song.

I live near a university, so these streets are usually filled to the brim.

I live near a university, so these streets are usually filled to the brim.

I feel like I’ve been listening to a lot of mellow music lately. Living in a crowded city can be overwhelming at times. In Korea, it’s normal for shops from cell phone stores to restaurants to blare really loud really stimulating music. Sometimes it’s funny (the amount of times I’ve heard unedited explicit hip hop songs in family restaurants is astounding). But other times it’s all just a bit …. much.

A relaxing Sunday stroll down the street accompanied by a melange of 5 different dubstep and kpop songs.

A relaxing Sunday stroll down the street accompanied by a melange of 5 different dubstep and kpop songs.

There’s always so much going on everywhere that it’s nice to just plug into my phone and listen to something calming. Dallas Green’s voice at the end of a very busy day is not the worst thing in the world. I do like the idea of filling a room with music, but living in a teensy apartment in a crowded area makes it hard to do so tactfully. I don’t think my neighbors would appreciate hearing Ed Sheeran’s new album as much as I would.

Headphones solve many of life's problems from sense assaulting streets to busy offices. This is probably my 16th pair this year.

Headphones solve many of life’s problems from sense assaulting streets to busy offices. This is probably my 16th pair this year.

So, for the time being, I listen to everything through headphones. Now if only I could keep a pair intact for longer than a week…

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