30 September 2010

New! Improved! Owl: Sneak Peek!

I mentioned in a post recently that I've been working on a new softie/pincushion design.  Well...here's the first finished one!  What do you think?

I was pretty happy with how this owl turned out, especially when I compare it to my first run of pincushions.  I think my sewing skills are slowly (oh so slowly...) improving, which is encouraging. Hurrah!

I'll be adding this owl, plus some friends, plus some new design embroidered note books, plus some festive note cards, to the Etsy shop over the next few weeks - keep an eye out!

29 September 2010

Birds eye view...

Yesterday marked the 60th anniversary of UN allied forces reclaiming Seoul from North Korea during the Korean War. And Friday is Armed Forces Day, which marks the founding of South Korea's military. (Or so I believe, details are surprisingly sketchy.  Feel free to correct me if I am wrong.)

Which all meant that there were parades and ceremonies and speeches in central Seoul, which is kind of right where we live.  There were also the most amazing batch of flybys - all kinds of helicopters and jets streaming overhead in formation.  They came so close to our balcony you could almost touch them (I did say almost...)  All terribly wasteful I suppose, and yet you can't help but be impressed when they go roaring past.

And I was delighted to see Elfi barking madly at the fighter planes.  Yeah, you tell 'em Elf!

26 September 2010

The Fortress Wall of Mt. Bukak*

Yes, I know I should be telling you all about our amazing holiday in Europe but to be honest I haven't even started going through the 331 photos.  It's been kind of busy since we got back (fun busy though!) and any spare time I've had I've been blogging (drafting posts for Handmade Spark) and crafting (working on some new pin cushion/softie designs that I am quite pleased with, but more about that some other time).  So, you will just have to wait!

In Seoul at the moment there is a definite crispness in the air - it's our first Autumn here and I think it's going to be a beauty!  The sun is shining, the light is soft and the night air is pleasantly chilly.  The drop in temperature is getting us all excited about the possibilities of a white xmas - we've already started planning out our decorations, snowman (fingers crossed) and xmas feast!

Today really was rather beautiful - sunshine, blue skies, a skerrick of a hint of a chill in the shade and that gorgeous, almost hazy, autumn light.  A perfect day for a bit of hiking!  Hiking is a national past time in Korea - every weekend you will see swarms of Koreans in brightly coloured outdoor gear heading to the many mountains and hills that surround the city with a backpack and a walking stick and a picnic blanket or two.

One of the walking spots that we've been reading a lot about lately is the Seoul Fortress Wall - it surrounds central Seoul so it's super easy to get to and it offers access to some beautiful forested walking tracks; breathtaking views of Seoul; and a bit of history as well (it's been around in various forms since 1396).  I would have loved to show you more photos, however one of the many guards (dressed in bright outdoor gear, of course) made me delete a bunch of them...

 As with most Korean tourism, details in English were sketchy.  So, here are some logistics in case you want to go:
- Take your passport or ID card.  Some sections of the wall curve around the Blue House (where the president lives) so there is a lot of security, and they won't let you up certain paths without first checking your travel documents and issuing a pass.
- We drove via Samcheong-dong, through the tunnel, and parked at Samcheonggak.  The path up to the fortress wall is just a few minutes walk back on the road you've just driven up, just before you hit the tunnel.  The walk up to the wall here is fairly steep, but pretty and only about 15-20 minutes long.
- If you catch public transport to this part of the wall the walk would be longer; 30-60 minutes depending on whether you catch train or train plus a bus.
- You can take photos is some places, but not all.  Rule of thumb - if you see barbed wire fences, put the camera away!

*to give it it's official Cultural Heritage Foundation name

22 September 2010


Well, I'm back from what has been possibly the most relaxing getaway we've ever done.  There will be much more about that once I've gotten through the what-time/day/planet-is-it? soupiness and sorted through all 331 (yep! 331!) photos.

In the meantime I'm playing along with Meredith (aka @thinkthinkers) over at Oh, the Thinks You Can Think and reveling in some tasty 70s fashion.  I've dug deep in to the family archives to share some of the 'style' of my early childhood.

Go have a look at Meredith's photos you'll see it seems that the 70s were quite cold and that ear-covering, under-chin-tying, knitted beanies were the height of kiddie fashion.

This is me aged about 2 with one of my aunties, Chris.  Feast your eyes on the purple flares, the leather beanbag and (look closely now!) the green espadrilles - seriously hip!  And that dress I'm wearing?  I reckon if they had it in adult sizes I'd probably still wear it now...

This is my step-dad, Erwin, who I can thank for introducing us to skiing.  I want that hat.

[I'm hoping mum will correct me if I'm wrong but I'm pretty sure the top photo is of my Granny, on my dad's side. And it's all about those lapels.  Oh yeah.]

Do you want to play too?  Post some pics of your 70s fashion adventures and leave a link over at Meredith's blog. Please do!

19 September 2010

Death by Doxie

Elfi has been complaining that lately I've spent too much time looking at other dachshunds on Flickr, so here she is front and centre again.

Our other dog, Ferdi, is quite content to use his little legs as an excuse to be lifted and carried everywhere.  To get on the couch, down a big step, on the bed - he waits for a lift.  If he overheats while we're out walking, he'll come to a complete halt and waits to be carried home.  Spoilt?  Perhaps.

Elfi, on the other hand, is quite the athlete.  She gets to all kinds of places that you wouldn't think a dachshund could get to.  And so it is that sometimes I'll find her just hanging out on the coffee table, watching the world go by and thinking about life, the universe and everything (or perhaps wondering what's for dinner.  I can never tell).

[ps. If you're ever a guest at our house don't worry - we keep both the dog and the table very clean...]

17 September 2010

Etsy Spotlight*: Sara Carr

*Etsy Spotlight - where I get to share some of my most favourite Etsy shops!

Have you met Sara Carr's wonderful knitted creatures?  So awesome, right?  Love the colours, love the shapes. Perfect for dressing up your kids or for dressing up their rooms (or your rooms, for that matter).

We have one of her tree cushions and it is quite possibly one of my favourite Etsy purchases ever!  The tree is so big and plump and the lambs wool is so very soft.

13 September 2010

Away again...

Yep, I'm away.  Again.  Off to Europe.  Again.  Have I mentioned how much I freakin' love living in Asia and being so much closer to the rest of the world?  Well, I do!

But I will miss you.  So, please, forgive my absence and look forward to some travel stories (possibly involving martinis) when I return in a week or two.


[photo by Parker Fitzgerald]

12 September 2010

Saturday roast

It's been a rather rainy weekend in our neck of the woods - how about yours?

I don't mind the odd rainy weekend - it's a good excuse to have a lazy day or two at home - but it feels like it's been raining every single day for the last two months in Seoul, so I'm hanging out for some drier weather.  But we made the most of this rainy weekend with some DVDs and a game of Pictionary (such fun, even though things sometimes get a little fraught when we play...).

We even had a Saturday roast with all the trimmings.  This used to be a favourite weekly staple when we lived in Potts Point (in Sydney), but it's been an age since we cooked it last.  My husband has a keen eye for picking the perfect bit of meat.  After it's finished roasting he'll wrap it in a tea towel and let it rest for a bit - it always turns out moist and tasty and a little pink inside - delish!  For sides, I whip up some yorkshire puddings (straight out of the Australian Women's Weekly cookbook).  I'd never even heard of yorkshire puds until I met my husband.  Do you like them?  They can be a bit stodgy but they do go very well with a roast.  Then we add some smooshed roast potatoes, a huge jug of gravy, peas, corn and some fresh crusty bread - a feast!

When I haven't been in the kitchen or settling Pictionary related disputes (or possibly even starting them...), I've had this song by The National on repeat.  It's wonderful.

And I've also been daydreaming about learning the piano.  I'm not sure where that's come from.

And I've been thinking about making some owl pincushions again, but with a different shape - a fat belly full of beans, kind of babushka doll like.  I've drafted a pattern and picked out some fabrics but it'll probably be awhile before I get a chance to actually make one.  Stay tuned!

11 September 2010

Custom order #1

I recently received my first proper custom order ever through my Etsy shop (the ones from friends and family don't count!).  What an absolutely wonderful feeling to know that some stranger out there saw my stuff and liked it so much that they took the time to message me and ask for something special!  So nice!

The customer wanted one of my hand embroidered moleskin cahier notebooks in shades of fuschia - I'm really happy with the way it turned out!  I think the colours look lovely, don't you?


Yesterday we ignored the rain and trekked out to Everland with the step-sons.  Everland is basically Koreas answer to Disneyland, right down to the fairy tale castle and strange rodent-like mascots.  I read somewhere that it's the 6th most visited theme park in the world, and it also has the worlds steepest wooden roller coaster, the 'T Express', which I would never, ever set foot on but which looked quite beautiful from a safe distance.

I find theme parks rather surreal at the best of times, and Everland definitely did not disappoint in this regard with a ton of halloween tack, grand Roman-esque fountains, a faux Amsterdam (minus the ahem 'coffee shops') and a haunted house 'ride' whose grand finale was a ghost farting goodbye.  If it were up to me I'd probably never visit a theme park - I'm a complete chicken when it comes to rides which doesn't help - but when I'm dragged to one by the rest of the family I do find myself having a most enjoyable time riding the mini roller coasters (yep, the ones built for 6 year olds. I'm totally hardcore) and soaking up the strangeness of it all.

Everland also has a large 'Zootopia' section chock full of the most amazing animals, including an incredible owl that I could have watched all day.  As with most zoos, it's a strange mix of super clean cages with entertainment that house happy looking animals, and those heartbreaking tiny compounds where large animals pace about.  Some amazing sights (especially the bears in the safari section - wowee!) but also some that make you a bit sad (like the postage-stamp sized enclosure for the lions).

Anyhoo, Everland got the thumbs up from all involved - good kid-friendly fun an hour out of Seoul.

10 September 2010

Death by Doxie x Flickr Finds

Introducing the ever adorable Mocha and Levi!  I think Anne Marie (aka geckoam) takes such beautiful photos of her beloved dachshunds, she seems to really capture their little doxie personalties.  And that ear biting thing - so funny! And so typical!  Ferdi spends most of his day walking around the house with Elfi's ear in his mouth...

Looking through Anne's photostream on Flickr, it's clear her dogs are much better trained than our two, because she also does a lot of holiday and themed photo shoots - we're talking costumes, back drops and props.  They rarely seem to degenerate in to a let's-chew-on-everything-in-sight-including-the-camera-and-photographer fest, like my attempts do.  Her set shots always make me laugh.  Awesome!

[If you haven't already done so, you must check out the 'Ralph' set by serenah photography.  Truly death by doxie genius!]

09 September 2010

Etsy Spotlight*: Crafterall

*Etsy Spotlight - where I get to share some of my most favourite Etsy shops!

I adore paper goods and paper craft, so it's no surprise that I also adore Crafterall.  The colors, the layering, the organic shapes!  Heavenly.  Oh, and i
f - like me - you are fascinated by Marnie's use of layering to create such beautiful works of art you can get a bit more of an insight over at her work-related blog.

[ps. I should say, I've recently purchased from this shop and the cards come packaged with such care! Really lovely!]

04 September 2010

Let's get physical

Suffering from the after effects (*wobble*) of two delightfully indulgent holidays involving two of my most favourite food groups (Italian and Thai) I've been on a bit of a health and fitness kick lately.  This has involved going to the gym which has in turn involved setting up a 'Gym' playlist on the iPod.

I quite like going to the gym, but I have a feeling I may make my fellow gym goers a little uncomfortable.  I don't 'work out' on the cross trainer, I dance.  Or try to, at least.  I've even come this close to tipping one over, when a particularly good tune came on.  So, lots more fun for me, but probably not so fun for innocent by-standers who just see a sweaty, red faced white girl who appears to be trying to get her groove on while exercising.

I could tell you that my gym playlist is chock full of hip tunes by De La Soul and the Beasties Boys; that it oozes style with Gnarls Barkley, Deep Dish and Gorillaz; that it doesn't mind a bit of too-cool-for-school tongue-in-cheek pop/rock with The Darkness; that it embraces the classics with Stevie Nicks and Marvin Gaye.  Which - even though it does do all those things - wouldn't be being entirely honest...

Because the songs that really, really get me moving are hideously fairly tragic but oh so very good pop / dance numbers.  There's Lady Gaga, Destiny's Child, Kylie and Madonna of course.  But there's also SOS by A-Studio (that one even gets me running on the treadmill sometimes - unheard of!), and Toca's Miracle by Fragma, and Being Nobody by Liberty X.  I even have Danii Minogue on there!  For shame!

But I need more!  So please share - what gets you going at the gym?

[ps. I am also slightly addicted to the 'MyFitnessPal' iPhone app.  It's very good for obsessives like me.]

02 September 2010

Three words a day

Ok, so, did you know I'm trying to learn Korean?  This is kind of odd because, well, you know how some people just have a knack for picking up languages?  I am so far removed from those kinds of people that we are quite possibly a different species.  I really struggle.  After nearly three years in Hong Kong, most of them spent studying Cantonese, I can recall a grand total of about seven words.  And I pronounce all of them incorrectly.

So - I hear you ask - why am I putting myself through this humiliation every week?  Because I think Korean just sounds kind of cool.  Because it gives me some vague feeling of understanding and control in a place where in reality I am so very dependent on my Korean speaking support network.  Because seeing as I'm not supposed to work I think it's good to have at least one thing that forces my brain to think in a structured, formal way.  Because I find it strangely reassuring to have something that's on at the same time each week, something that feels a little like a routine.  Because after week two I could read the alphabet and I can now tell what's shampoo and what's conditioner. And also because the husband's company pays for it - hurrah!

Anyway, I'm writing this post having just returned from my lesson.  My teacher is a gem and I feel for her, I really really do.  I took my usually approach of doing my homework an hour before class, madly trying to cram on the walk there, and then grasping at any lifeline she'll throw me during class.  This worked surprisingly well as a way to get through uni, but I'm starting to think I need to be a little more committed if I'm going to prove the cynics (aka my husband) wrong and learn enough Korean to actually be useful.

Hence three words a day.  This is my plan - to commit to memory just three new words a day.  I'm starting off small, but I'm hoping it'll get me in the habit of at least looking at my textbooks each day.  I'm telling you this because now I have to do it.  I'm now accountable to you, my loyal readers (yes, all 2.5 of you). And I'm telling you this because I'm hoping that you will help me keep my commitment.  Just give me a nudge every now and then, ask me what words I've learnt today.  I'd really, really appreciate it if you did.

ps. This was my attempt at a short blog post.  Oh dear.

Good Things...

Some things that happify me right now:

- The September issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller.  Yes, yes - the recipes are drool inducing as always, and they have a feature on Korean food (about time!), but this month there is also a heap of really great writing.  There's Kelly Eng writing about the traditional Chinese Battle of the Bills and Frank Moorhouse musing on a perfectly made martini in Shining Water.

But my favourite is AA Gill writing about airports, and - of course - it's the one article I can't find on-line.  Maybe it's because I also spend a bigger-than-average percentage of my life in airports, or maybe it's because I just got back from a trip to my hometown, but his writing on departures and arrivals; on the 'tug of home' and the 'itch and excitement of getting away'; on the 'velcro rip of affection and connection', really struck a chord.

- Starting to build a winter wardrobe.  After a few years living in Hong Kong and having a winter that lasts for around two weeks I am now gearing up for a proper, icy, hovering-around-zero winter in Seoul.  I am loving trolling through Etsy's vintage shops for coats and boots, and the handmade shops for gloves and other knitwear.  My absolute favourite purchase so far are these boots, from this shop.  Plus the AUD$20 winter coat I bought from a Melbourne op-shop that looks like it was tailor made for me - score!

- Having our first visitor stay in our new home in our new city!  There's something so very fun about sharing your 'hood with someone, and for some reason it kind of makes it really feel like the place we call home.

- Re-reading Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder.  Do you remember this book?  It's basically an easy to digest history of philosophy, and it was huge when it first came out.  I read it then, but I think most of it went way over my head.  I think more of it's sticking the second time around.

- So You Think You Can Dance (Season 7).  I possibly may have mentioned this before but really, it's very good.  I've laughed, I've cried, I've been humiliated by my husband for liking such a silly show.  If you're in the mood to watch a bit of dance, these performances are especially good: this one, this one, and this one (you can skip through all the intro and judges bits if you want, it's the dance that matters!).

- Being home again and finding the time to get creative.  Holy cow I have so many ideas at the moment, so many things I want to try and projects I want to start, it's almost overwhelming.  I wonder how on earth do you prioritise these things?

[The photo at the top is of a bunch of Persian Buttercups and it's taken by me!  If you like it, have a look at my shiny new Etsy shop for notecards featuring some of my all-time favourite photos.]