Lords-A-Leaping and Korea Tour Day 10

WANTED -- One bed time assistant. Must be available to sing songs until thoroughly sick of them, brush very small teeth multiple times, and perform repeated tuck-ins Monday through Friday. Endless drink retrievals and finding of lost stuffed animals is an absolute must. Experience preferred but not necessary. Starting salary will be paid in sugar cookies and sticky smiles. Please don't apply. Just come over. Like now. Now would be a great time for you to start. If my kids don't start going to bed...and I mean going to bed for real, not just for pretend or for 5 minutes... I'm going to start bribing them with cookies. Oh wait, I already do. So...anyone want a job? I'll give you this cookie. I'll even make a fresh one with sticky icing if you want it.

Steps 1 through 4 -- outline the cookie with thick black icing and a #2 tip. Orient the design by starting the outline on the shorts. Then do the hat and the face. Put some lines in the shorts. (Would these be considered pantaloons?) Add some legs and shoes and then the chest. Leave a small gap for the arm. Add the two arms (and hands) next and finish off by outlining that cape in the remaining area.

5. Fill in some of the areas.
6. Then fill in the others. Let it all dry overnight.
7. Add some rosy pink little cheeks, tiny black dots for eyes and a cute little nose.


I am not going to lie to you. I love eating out in Korea. It took me a long time to get to that point because all of their restaurants look like this. Some are even worse. Like the one that has a picture of a cow on the front of it.

Or...this one. This really is a restaurant. I'm not kidding you.

So is this one. Can you guess what they sell? Okay, okay... it's Dominoes Pizza. Notice the mayo decorations and the fact that french fries are a legitimate pizza topping here. Also... all pizzas have corn on them. Even the ones that you order with nothing on them. 

Vegetable foods are relatively inexpensive here compared to the food in the US when I left there.. I can get a hot sweet potato sandwich for around  $1. And a giant bowl or rice and vegetables for $4-5 dollars in a restaurant like this. Outdoor dining room anyone?

Side dishes are a big thing here. They always have at least 3. Even if you go to a food store and get some cheap kimbap (Korean version of sushi... they sell it in a roll for about $1.) they will at least throw in some pickled turnips.

This is lunch for 3 people. THREE people. And...we might have actually eaten most of it. I love Korean food. Have I mentioned that?

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Ladies Dancing and Korea Tour Day 9

Nine ladies dancing. NINE of them. That's nearly 12. Only 3 more days and the countdown will be over. This is a real countdown friends. This is not a drill. This is not a joke.  It should not come as a surprise to you at this point in our blogging-internet-relationship-life-thing.... but I live in South Korea. And I mail Christmas presents. It's what I do. At least, it's what I do in November. I have to get my presents mailed by December 3rd for them to have any hope of actually arriving at their intended destination before the big day of love and giving. (And also eating of chocolates. It's a tradition at our house. I may have started it.) I have 3 more days. And 3 more blog posts. And then I shall have a large party at my house with ice cream and chocolate and I will call it The Annual Celebration Of All Presents Purchased.  And then I'll have a giveaway on my blog so you can be excited with me.

Apparently, ruffles are kind of a big deal for dancers. At least for 2 year old dancers, they are. I used a #104 tip for the ruffles. Start with the cookie upside down if you are right handed. Line the tip up with the bottom (now the top) edge so that the wide end of the tip is facing her feet. Then make a bunch of squiggles. You can make the ruffles by moving up and down as you come across the cookie, or like I did by piling the icing back on top of itself in waves as you come across. It's up to you and how you like your ruffles. Do one line of ruffle with thick icing and let it dry for about 30 minutes. And then follow up with another line of ruffles.

1. Using a #2 tip and thick black icing, outline the cookie. Start with the left shoulder and come down to the ruffles. Then do the right shoulder and come down again to the ruffles. Outline the hair, then the face and neck. Do the arms and then the feet last. Let the outline dry for an hour.
2. Flood the dress with red icing. Use a toothpick as necessary to guide it into the ruffles.
3. While the red is drying, fill the remaining areas, being careful not to overfill. To avoid craters use 23 second icing or put in front of a fan, dehydrator or heat gun to set the icing. Allow to dry overnight.
4. Add ribbon sash and two adorable little eyes. Add a mouth if you like. (I kind of wish I hadn't...but that one is your choice. I won't judge you either way.)


Do you want to know what my Korea apartment looked like? (Please say yes. I'm still in love with it and I don't even live there anymore. Is that weird?)

I spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to get some kind of statistic on the proportion of South Koreans that live in apartments vs. houses. I failed... so I'm just going to make one up. From my experience, I would guess that roughly 75% of South Koreans live in apartments. The 15 floor variety seem to be the most popular. They are usually built in complexes that have 8-10 buildings in them. This was my complex. There is another row of apartments behind the apartments on the left. If you wanted to, you could imagine me carrying my children and groceries in one trip between that parking lot and the door to the immediate right of this photo. It seemed like a much longer distance in my head.

With all of the apartments here, you can believe that they have figured out the most efficient way to move people in an out of a home. And it doesn't involve the stairs or the elevator. They have a giant lift truck that zips a platform carrying household goods up and down the ladder-type thing. (Do any of you live in large cities anywhere else? How do you move your stuff in and out? I've been wondering since the very first time I saw that moving lift truck.)

When you walk in my apartment, you see this. Except this picture was taken while the previous occupant was moving out, so you wouldn't actually see anything on that MARBLE  floor right there. And those walls are embossed. For real. I lived there.

And let's just get right to the bathrooms, since I'm clearly bent on showing you all Korean bathrooms I encounter. Notice there is no shower curtain. They don't use them here. The whole room is the shower and there is a drain under the sink for the water. I want every country in the world to adopt this idea of floor drains in bathrooms. Cleaning a bathroom is so much more fun when you can just spray everything down and walk away.

This is the kitchen. I feel compelled to once again let you know that these aren't my belongings. My husband took this picture and the other one when he went to go check out the apartment for the first time. The oven is completely deceiving. I don't know if you can see the window on the oven inside the black square... but THAT is how big the oven is on the inside!!! No joke. It was 13" by 13".

And if you were to turn to your right and look toward the living room, this is what you would see. Behind me is another enclosed balcony that was home to my washer and dryer. (Many Koreans don't have a dryer, so there really wasn't room for it. Mine was hooked up immediately in front of the washer. Which...for the record...made laundry just that much more of an adventure.)

What the South Koreans don't have in furniture they make up for in ornate fixtures and decorated walls. This apartment had marble walls and dark hard wood flooring. And this.

This is the living room. Notice the enclosed balcony with lots of light. That's where I took my pictures. In the left corner is a standing AC unit. For the entire apartment. We didn't use it a lot though because in the summer it could cost up to $600 to cool our house for a month. Beyond the window are all those rice paddies you saw yesterday.

And this is the view from the washer and dryer balcony. The funny thing about this playground was that there were no stairs to get up to the slide. There was a giant ladder that had rungs 2 feet apart. Also...the best thing ever... there was a closed circuit TV camera on the playground. I could hook my TV up to the cable in my living room and watch the "playground channel."

My favorite time of year in that apartment was Christmas. Everything reflected light. If we turned off the room light and left the tree lights on, it would be reflected hundreds of times in the balcony glass doors on BOTH sides of the house. And in the marble walls. And the shiny wood floors. It was... amazing. 

CLICK HERE to see all 12 Days of Christmas.

Maids-A-Milking and Korea Tour Day 8

These cookies are starting to give me a complex. I just looked at the list of gifts I want to give my husband and so far it includes socks and a book. It's not that I don't love him. It's just that...well... I hate feathers, so that takes the first 4 days right off the list. And he doesn't like gold, so I won't be getting him those rings. And then we're back to the feather conundrum. And I can't hire 8 maids to do our milking because we don't even have a farm. Or cows. Or an actual backyard for that matter. Do you think that banana pudding counts as a gift? I could get him some of that. Then I would have THREE things on the list. Maybe I'll just re-wrap some of his gifts from last year and see if he notices. I bet that would stretch it to FIVE gifts at least. That's almost like 12. I an very nearly as good of a gift giver as this anonymous foul-fancying-song-singing-gift-giving-giver of true love Christmas gifts. At least my gifts don't come with feathers. 

1. Outline the cookie with a #2 tip and thick black icing. Randomly, the shoulders are the easiest place to start. Then follow the edge of the cookie to make the arms, coming in for the hands of course. Then do the skirt and the top. Finish the skirt with an apron and then make some crazy hair. Crazy cute hair, I mean. Add a face and then a neck and shoes. It seems complicated, but it's really not if you go in this order.

2. Use semi-thick (23 second ) icing to fill in all these little spaces. OR... use thin icing and an oscillating fan, heat gun or dehydrator fan to set the icing so you don't get craters. Be careful not to overfill your outline. Let dry over night.
3. Use your thick black icing make a bucket. Give it a few minutes to dry.
4. Add two little triangles on each side of the head for bows and two tiny dots for eyes. Fill the bucket with red icing. And... if you wanted to, you could add some pink to her cheeks, but that's totally your call. I mean, if you hate cute cookies and want to ruin Christmas, that's fine. No judging here.


Let's talk about rice. They grow it here. And they grow a lot of it. Wherever they can.

In the springtime they flood the rice paddies and just let it sit for a few weeks. And then when it's really muddy and squishy, they go out with a tractor-boat and plant the little bunches of baby rice plants.

And then they grow into toddler size rice plants with other tiny little floating plants surrounding them. This is actually my favorite stage of rice.

I love looking at the contrast of the endless rows of green rice and dark water. (This is July in case you were wondering.)

Seriously, how could you NOT love this?

As the summer progresses, the rice fills in all the extra spaces and creates a dense field of green.

The rice grains develop and the tops start drooping as they mature.

And then the rice paddies turn a lovely shade of gold which is not at all shown in this picture. 

They cut the rice with this super-cool contraption. It's kind of like a lawn mower, except it spits the rice stalks out the back and the rice grains end up in a little basket on the side.

They gather the rice stalks up and do something with them that I don't know what it is. 

Sometimes they burn them though. (This is October-ish.)

In the small town that we lived in, the rice paddy owners on our side of town would block off this street and cover it with tarps and then spread the rice on it to dry. The rice grains are still in their hulls. Black rice is at the bottom and white rice is at the top of the hill.

And that brings us to now. Winter. And snow. And rice paddies that are waiting for spring.

CLICK HERE to see all 12 Days of Christmas.

Christmas Card Cookies

So this one time, I started making cookies in the middle of the winter. And loved them. And then hated everything about cookies two weeks later because I just knew I would never be any good at it.. And I thought about giving it up and going back to my life without icing on my pants and color gel on my fingers. I thought about the late nights and early mornings I could reclaim, the sleep that would come back to me, the designs that would stop floating in and out of my dreams and all the healthy food my children would begin to eat. But mostly I thought about how much I felt like a complete cookie failure. After at least 12 minutes of self pity, the kindest person in the world...and the ONLY person in the world that sends me legitimate emails with the word "dear" in the title... told me to stop being the whining me and start being the cookie making me again. So I did.

And then a few weeks ago she also told me she had this great idea for a cookie project and that I should do it. So I did. Again. See, she has the most amazing and beautiful blog in the whole entire world and also a gorgeous garden and I have total garden envy and photography skills envy and... well... I just like her a lot, so I do what she tells me to do. (Except obviously, she's SUPER sweet and polite and would never actually tell me to do anything. Even if I totally deserve it.)

We were supposed to choose a Christmas card that inspired us. The thing is, they don't really celebrate Christmas here in Korea like we do other places. So I had to go peruse cards online. And since I am so easily persuaded and "cookie inspired," I pretty much stopped at card #2. THIS card. And a huge chunk of you guys were all at Cookie Con, and we've pretty well established that I was jealous and missed my home country... so these pretty much had to happen.

And I made these charming little dears that remind me of my own country and how grateful I will be to someday return to a land where they celebrate Christmas with lights and cocoa and candy canes and Christmas Carols.

And because I love you all, wherever you live.... I kind of, maybe, made a teeny little video to show you how to get the realistic looking Christmas tree effect.

Many, many other talented cookie people also participated in Haniela's fantastic Christmas Card Cookie Project. Please check them out and be inspired in your own holiday cookie making!

3. Georganne, LilaLoa
4. Lorraine, Lorraine's Cookies
6. Pam, Cookie Crazie
7.Cathy, Cathy's Cookies
8. Mariëlle, De Koekenbakkers
9.  Nadia, My Little Bakery
10. Liz, Arty Mc Goo
11. Callye, Sweet Sugarbelle
14. Meaghan, The Decorated Cookie
15. Paula, Vanilla Bean Baker
16. Miriam & Estíbaliz, Message in a Cookie
18. Myriam, Chapix Cookies
21. Maryann, Cookie Artisan
22. Hani, Haniela's

And if you want another reason to use your #233 tip, try these projects --

Traditional Christmas Trees
Wild Thing Valentine
Purple Halloween Monster

Swans-A-Swimming and Korea Tour Day 7

Has anyone ever successfully retrieved a splinter with a pair of tweezers? Because... I haven't. Yet, every single time I even think the word "splinter" I head for those unwieldy pieces of metal stuck together at one end that masquerade as helpful tools of splinter removing. But they are trickers, taunting me with their little pinchers that don't actually pinch. Sometimes I think I would have more success trying to pull out that splinter with my toes than with a pair of tweezers.

Also, why do we have to call it a "pair" of tweezers? The sides are clearly not matching as evidenced by their inability to line up and work together at the exact point you need them to. They should be called an un-pair of tweezers.

Also, in case you are wondering, I have a splinter. And I find it annoying. And not at all enjoyable. And I can't possibly make cookies when I'm annoyed. But you could. If you wanted to. I wouldn't mind watching you. Except, I mean, I would still complain about the splinter while watching you. Is that okay?

1. Bake a cookie while not getting a splinter. Try to make it in this shape.
2. Outline the cookie with a #2 tip and thick black icing. Start with the head and the inside of the neck. Move on up to the top part of the neck and the back of the swan. Then outline around the bottom and add the water last. Let it all dry for an hour while still not getting a splinter.
3. Fill the swan with white icing and the water with blue icing. Be very careful to not overfill your outline... or get a splinter. Let it dry overnight.
4. Add the tiniest eyeball every with black icing. Use the dark gold to make a sweet little beak. (Everything about a cookie swan is sweet. I'm pretty sure of it.) Make a wing with some more of that white icing. Try to make the top line of the wing match the top of the swan. (Unlike those tweezers.) Add some little water splashes with blue icing along the front and back edges of the water line. Admire your work.


So, Korea has been around for kind of a long time. Like, years and years. This palace was originally built in the 14th century. And then it got burned and they rebuilt it and then it got burned again and they kind of got annoyed that they had just rebuilt it and it went and got burned again so they didn't do anything about it for a few hundred years. And then they rebuilt it only to have this other country come in and take over the place and burn it again after only 40 years or so.

They started rebuilding it about 30 years ago and they are still working on it. Apparently there were some 330 buildings in the palace in its heyday. We got to see some of the foundations they had recovered on another building while we were there. I didn't take a picture because I was too interested. I felt like Indiana Jones just looking at the site.

And just like when it was originally built... it is in the middle of the city of Seoul, South Korea. This is the outer courtyard. It's kind of big.

These are the guards at the gate. I honestly don't know anything more about them.

This is the throne hall. It's kind of huge. And its made mostly of wood. And if you wanted to talk Korean, you could call it the Geunjeongjeon.

This is the side of it. It looks similar to those Buddhist temples from yesterday, eh? I'm telling you... I LOVE Korean architecture and the ornate buildings. But I'll try not to show you too many buildings from now on.

Except this one you should see. It's the banquet hall. Can you IMAGINE coming to dinner here? It would be so super gorgeous and fancy at night. I bet they had floating lanterns. I know I would.
CLICK HERE to see all 12 Days of Christmas.