Thursday, September 25, 2008

Yarn therapy

Yarn shopping is one of my favourite things to do. It's so much fun to look at all the colours and textures and imagine what you could make out of them if you only had the time. It's especially fun when you haven't been in a while. I think the last time I bought yarn was in the spring when the vendors got the cotton out. That's a pretty good stretch of time without buying yarn, so I indulged a little today.

So Karen and I headed to Dongdaemun Shopping Town around 10 this morning when it was nice and quiet. We were both looking for baby yarn and we both managed to find some. Unfortunately we both don't know the sex of our babies yet, so I ended up buying yellow, and she bought green. I also bought some which may or may not go to making baby stuff.
Here's the yellow stuff. Just standard baby yarn.
This says baby alpaca, and I'm thinking it'll make a nice scarf and hat set for me, plus a baby cardigan or something.
Finally, just when we were going to leave the building, I spied this Noro Silk Garden yarn, which I had to get. Noro has to be one of the most popular yarns out there and I've heard so much about it, but I've never tried it. I didn't know it was available in Dongdaemun, and I assumed that if it was, it would be too expensive. To my surprise, the man only charged me $65 for the bag of 10 balls, which I think is a pretty good deal. Kind of hurts to shell out that kind of cash all at once, but when you break it down to the per ball cost, it's really not bad at all. I tried knitting up a swatch with it and I can see why people like it. Because of the silk content, it slips very nice over the bamboo needles and the colourway is so gradual and vivid. So it was a great trip. Karen and I then had lunch at one of my favourite restaurants, Himalaya, near Dongmyo Station. It was delicious and we had a nice talk about babies and childcare. Got some good book and product recommendations.

All in all, it was a good Korea day. Living here is full of ups and downs sometimes. Today all the vendors were very friendly -- I got a few discounts which rarely happens in Shopping Town, some free needles, and a free pattern magazine. Then on the subway home an old man offered his seat to me, which was really weird because often the young people don't even do that. Plus, the weather was fantastic (for me, anyway). It was very cool and overcast. I even got some work done tonight.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Namdaemun is awesome. There is such a variety of things for sale at cheap prices, and even if you're not into shopping, just the atmosphere is great to be in. But I'm constantly surprised when I hear other foreigners say that they don't like Namdaemun, or that they've never been there.

I'll admit, the first time I went over six years ago, I was a little confused about the hype and wasn't overly impressed. I thought it was just full of ginseng in soju and knock-off bags. But you really need to go on a weekday when it's not so crazy, and you also need to be brave. For a long time, I never ventured into the buildings in Namdaemun. I just glanced into the stores on the ground floor. Don't be afraid to go into random buildings and go up stairways and escalators -- basically get lost.

The reason I write this is that yesterday I went to Namdaemun for the first time in quite a while. I used to only have time to go on weekends, and this is not a good time to visit Namdaemun, especially if you don't like crowds. So my friend Amira and I went yesterday around noon to check out the baby malls. I have been in the baby malls before, but never looked seriously because I wasn't expecting a baby! But yesterday I took more interest (although I didn't buy anything for baby) and helped my friend pick up some fantastic deals on some clothes for her son, Noah. The clothing there was half the price (or more) of the clothing we were looking at in Doota last week, and some of it was exactly the same.

Baby and kids' clothes here are cute. And they're affordable if you shop in places like Namdaemun. Forget Doota and Homeplus and definitely stay away from the big department stores. Hit the markets. I'm always amazed when I hear friends with kids saying they order their kid's clothes from abroad because the clothes are too expensive here, or they're not good. I had a co-worker once tell me that his wife only dresses their daughter in brand name clothes that she orders from the U.S. because they're better quality. Excuse me? I can't imagine ordering expensive baby Polo clothes for my kid, only to watch them spit up on them and then grow out of them in a matter of a couple of months. What a waste! I know I'll be hitting Namdaemun for all my baby clothes when the time comes.

To get to the baby malls, take exit 7 out of Hoehyeon Station (light blue line 4), go straight, and then turn left. Wander around. You will see big buildings with funny names like Mama Land or Happy Baby (I can't remember if those are the correct names, but they're similar to that). Go on in and look. Take the stairs and see what's on the other floors. For example, after wandering around the first floor of a baby mall yesterday, I decided to go up to the second floor just out of curiosity. I'm glad I did because hiding up stairs were tonnes of women's discount clothes, even maternity shops. My friend bought a gorgeous black suit for $60 (bargained the lady down from $90 -- don't forget to bargain)! There were all kinds of cool shops up there that I had no idea existed.

Mesa also has a baby clothes floor with good deals. Mesa also has good deals on women's clothes, and has some maternity shops. It is also near exit 7 of Hoehyeon Station. Just look up when you get out. It's the tallest building in the area. Yesterday I bought a bunch of flowy shirts there on sale for 5 and 10 bucks. I've found out that I really don't need to buy maternity shirts, especially with this year's fashion trends. The shirts I bought are roomy and comfortable with plenty of room left. I did look at actual maternity shirts, but they're humongous, I don't like them, and they're way more expensive because they're called "maternity" shirts. Take a look around Mesa first and second floor and you won't be disappointed. There's also a food court up on the 8th floor.

Also, Korean souvenirs and gifts. Most foreigners think that the best place for this is Insa-dong. Yes, Insa-dong is great, but a lot of the souvenirs there are overpriced, naturally, because it's a tourist zone. If you just wander around Namdaemun, you will see a lot of Korean souvenir shops. These places are all right, but where you want to go is the Korean Folk Art building, second floor. I can't give precise directions there because I always get lost wandering around Namdaemun, but what I do is just wander around, and look up for a big banner that says "Korean Folk Crafts" or something like that. Go in the building nearest that banner and go up to the second floor. It's a huge building full of the same stuff they sell in Insa-dong (phone charms, silk bags, boxes, Korean lamps, etc.), but for cheaper, and the salespeople there are more willing to bargain, especially if you're buying a bunch of gifts. I always go to this building to buy gifts before I go home to Canada for a vacation.

Anyway, I always have a good time in Namdaemun, and today I felt compelled to write about it. It was great to get back there on a Tuesday afternoon and take a leisurely look around. I just found this neat map of Namdaemun, which attempts to make it look easy to get around. Have fun with the map, but I still think it's best to go and wander. I also just found out that Mesa has a floor full of beads in the basement (I haven't even been to the basement!). Damn.

I actually have today to myself since I'm waiting for feedback on my sample unit I sent to the publishing company last night. Very, very late last night...I was too busy shopping in Namdaemun yesterday afternoon instead of doing my work. Yesterday evening I also had a CWIK (Career Women in Korea) meeting, which means I got home around 10pm, soaked my feet, caught up with Sejin, and started working around midnight. How silly is that?

By the way, if you're a career woman in Korea or are looking for a career, you should go to CWIK's monthly meetings. They usually meet the third Thursday of the month at the New Seoul Best Western Hotel. The meeting is in English, and both Korean and foreign women are welcome. The schedule is something like this: 6:45pm - networking, 7:30 - dinner, 8:15 guest speaker speaks, 8:45 Q&A, 9:00 - finish. It's a great place to meet other career women. If you want more info, email

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Soft Claws

I have to say, I'm very impressed with these "Soft Claws" that I ordered for Toto. We're trying to de-arm Toto for several reasons. She's not a super destructive cat, but sometimes if the mood strikes her, she is able to put holes in things with her razor sharp nails. She doesn't really scratch me or Sejin anymore because we can almost predict her every move, but ocassionally she gets us, and it hurts. So I had heard of these nail caps for pets (they're made for cats and dogs) and decided to see if I can get them here in Korea. Luckily, they are available on the website that we order Toto's food and litter from, Cat Republic.

I was skeptical, but decided to give them a try. They are just plastic caps shaped like the cat's nails that slip over their existing nails. You put a drop of glue in each nail and then slide them on. It was easier than I thought, and they really stay on. I put the first ones on Toto about three weeks ago and none have fallen off. The best part is that they don't even irritate her. In the instructions, it says that some pets may try to chew them off, or seem annoyed by them. Toto didn't seem to notice there was anything on her nails! There was no adjustment time at all.
The only problem is that kit comes with two small vials of glue, which isn't enough for multiple applications. Also, the glue in our kit was kind of gummy and difficult to apply to the cap. So I picked up some regular manicure glue for human nails and it works just as good. Sejin and I are happy, Toto is indifferent, so that's a big thumbs up for Soft Claws. We'll definitely be ordering them again. I think we may order her a nice pink set next time!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Back on track

This is why it took me so long to write the listening books:
Total pages: 396
Number of listening passages: 540
Number of questions: 828
Number of vocab test questions: 540

But they are finished and I had a great sleep last night, so it's time to get on with life! I'm going today to get my hair cut for the first time in what seems like a millenium and I'm going to hang out in Edae after that until my class at 8:00. I have to write the forward for the books, and I'll bring some knitting with me. And I need new shoes, as my current ones are literally falling apart. It'll be a nice afternoon.

As for knitting, I finally finished the baby kimono I was working on. I decided to use buttons for closure rather than ties. It's really cute, but really small. It will probably only be good for the first couple of weeks. Actually, it'll probably just be a photo-op.
I started working on this really cool folk-arty doilie while finishing up the books.
And the other night I started a really cute ribbed baby sweater.
I'm not even sure about this project. I just want to use up some of the cheap yarn I got when I first started knitting. Depending on how this turns out, it might become a cat blanket for toto rather than a baby blanket. It's kind of scratchy and stiff. But I've heard that this type of yarn softens up a lot after a few washes. Fingers crossed.
So I'm much happier now that knitting is back in my life. I still have lots to do, but it's totally manageable. I'll be starting a new project shortly, a conversation series for pre-schoolers. I'm looking forward to this one because there's more creativity involved, and of course, and it'll be much easier on my brain.

Yesterday was fun. My friend Amira is visiting from Australia with her husband and her 1-year-old son, Noah. Noah's a cute little guy who was totally obsessed with the fan in my apartment! After he left I realized that my fan now makes funny noises when running. Kids... At least it still works. Amira brought me a few baby things, including the cutest little booties with kangaroos on them. Love them!
After hanging out here for a while, we went to Doota, to the kids clothing floor. It's much more pricey there than other places, but it's still fun to look. Noah got a cute outfit for his first birthday party this Saturday. I took a spin through the maternity shops on the same floor and ended up getting a cute long sleeve T-shirt that says "The bun is done." Most of the maternity stuff up there is just way to huge for me. I think I'm going to place an online order soon.

Well, guess I should get moving. It's a beautiful day out there.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


The listening books are finished and I can now attempt to regain control of my life! Going out with friends today visiting Korea from Australia. Ah, I can breathe now!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Or so I thought

I'm at the end of my rope with this project. The work just does not end. I've been working for days on end (even weekends) straight. I've finished nearly all the writing, but now I have to do the vocabulary test questions, which I was assured would be easy. I'm now in the process of writing 150 questions. Then I have to fill in some totally useless exercises called "listening tips" which don't even belong in these books. Then I'll have to put the units (36) in order of difficulty. Then I'll have to write the last unit because I couldn't bring myself to stay up past 2:30 a.m. yesterday. Then there will be something else that they'll email me with to do. Looks like it's another 3:00 a.m. bedtime!

Even worse than all this work is that I don't even believe in the books. I was not involved at all in the planning process, and do not agree with how the books are laid out. I expressed this concern to the project manager at the beginning, who basically said, "Yes, you're right, but this is what my boss wants, so let's just do it this way." I would have gladly gone into their office for a meeting or planning session. Instead, I lost interest in this project very early on because I don't see any teaching philosphy behind these books! I'm merely finishing them now so that I don't soil my name with this company.

On top of it all, the pay is not good. Actually, it sounded good in the beginning, and it might sound good if I were to tell you, but I was foolish when I signed the contract. I did not realize what a massive project this was. This kind of project would have been suitable for a team of writers, not one. I am being paid the same for this project as I was for the "I Can Speak English" series for grade one kids, and that series was a piece of cake to write -- mostly pictures!! I'd say these listening books are about 5 times the work of those books. I don't even want to think about money right now...

So I guess I've kind of missed deadline again, but I don't really care because I'm beside myself with anger right now. What are they going to do -- fire me and get another sucker to finish the project? Sure.

I'm going shopping tomorrow.

Monday, September 8, 2008

On the home stretch

A little bit more writing to do, some random exercises to fill in, and then I have to put the units in order of difficulty. Last possible deadline on the contract says September 10, so it's do or die time. I'll be the happiest person ever when this is done!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Toto the plastic-eating cat

Thank goodness my classes canceled on me today. I've been debating all morning whether to cancel them or not, and I didn't even have to make the decision! I was going to cancel because it's pouring out and I hate traveling in Seoul in the rain, and also because I'm pretty tired. The story:

Toto got into some trouble last night and puked four times. She'll puke once or twice a week from over-eating, but four times in one night is a bit much, so I started looking for the answer. Finally I found it. In the center of our headboard, I put this pretty artificial flower some time ago. It's kind of a mini-arrangement, with some ribbon and fake ivy hanging down from the flower. The white ribbon is now all crunched up and hard, and the plastic ivy is gone, probably eaten. I don't understand this cat. She will not touch any food (cat or human) except her Pro Plan, but she'll eat plastic? I've tried giving her bacon, ham, cheese, fried chicken, everything. She just sniffs it and walks away. She won't eat any cat treats, even the nice canned stuff. Not that I'm complaining -- I hated when our dogs used to beg at dinner time. It's nice to be able to leave food on the table and not worry about it being licked. But why plastic and ribbon? Anyway, she paid for it. She's all right now, taking her daily all-day nap as usual.

Here's a great before and after shot of her sexy new haircut. She looks really weird, but she's much happier. She's running around and playing more and just seems in a better mood most of the time. I think we're going to get her shaved twice a year from now on to keep her hair under control. Especially with a baby coming, her hair floating around just isn't healthy.
Speaking of cats, Sejin and I went to the musical CATS last Friday night at Charlotte Theater in Jamsil. I've always wanted to see it, so we spent a little extra money and got first row balcony seats, which was really worth it. I've had the CD of the musical for years and am very familiar with the story and music, so finally seeing it was fantastic. It was the original London cast and I have to say I thought it was amazing. I've heard some friends say they don't like it, or it was just so-so, but I think it depends what your expectations are going in. Perhaps an appreciation for musicals helps too? I'm not sure. I just loved every second of it. Charlotte Theater was impressive too. It's a nice, small, but classy theater located right near Jamsil Station which was designed especially for musicals. This means that it's quite small (seats about 1,000), and since the seating is quite steep, there are no really "bad seats." I noticed that next up at Charlotte Theater is "Dreamgirls," but I don't know if it's the English or Korean cast. It's not very often plays and musicals are shown in English in Korea, so if you want to see something and it's in English, just go and see it, because you probably won't have another chance. It was a nice evening. We walked around Jamsil Station near Lotte World beforehand and got dinner. I forgot about the skating rink at Lotte World. Since it was a Friday, it wasn't that busy. I wouldn't recommend going on a weekend though. There are lots of restaurants and fun shops in Jamsil Station because of Lotte World. I got some fuzzy peaches and chocolate malt balls to snack on at the musical (secretly of course!). Great treats. So now that I have a whole rainy day ahead of me, I'd better be productive and get some work done, since I'm behind deadline yet again.