Sunday, February 28, 2010


I actually started learning some knots! I have a somewhat obsessive personality type, so once I start something, I can't put it down. Over the course of yesterday, I learned these knots:
Wae dorae:
Dorae wasn't too bad once I got it. Wae dorae, strangely, I found harder than dorae, but I'm getting better. With these two knots, the hardest thing for me is making them close to one another. Some of the jewelry pieces in Elegant Knotted Jewelry require a whole bunch of these knots back to back, so I have to learn how to make them closer together.

Hapjong was quite easy and looks really cool in two colours.

Nalgae wasn't too hard, but it's hard to make the knots look consistent. It kind of reminds me of when you first start knitting and your tension is all over the place. Even tension and consistency can take some serious time to achieve.

The last knot, dongshimgyeol, gave me the most trouble. It's hard to hold all the pieces of cord in one hand while threading with the other. But it looks super cool when it's done. I was pretty proud.

I'm now working on garakji, and this I'm finding the most challenging yet. I can do the knot itself no problem. Actually, I use a large metal tapestry needle to do the threading and it takes no time at all (I'm sure that's a no-no with many traditional maedeup artists). It's the tightening that I can't get! But I'm so determined to get it, so you'll see a picture of it soon enough. I think it is such a cool-looking knot, so I can't wait. And it seems to be used quite a lot in maedeup pieces, so I can't just skip it.

All of my knots are far from perfection right now, but I'm digging maedeup so far. Grace also likes it.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Just when I thought... couldn't get any noisier, I am proven wrong.

The other day the people below us moved out and a new family moved in. Let's just say that it was quiet around here compared to what it is now. Kids screaming at the top of their lungs, doors banging, pounding, screaming... I can't believe it. This building is pretty bad. Everything seems to echo throughout it. Sejin just went down to ask them to keep it down. Even he is in disbelief right now. But Grace sleeps on, thank goodness.

Friday, February 26, 2010

I still love Dongdaemun

I had a great day of freedom today (well, at least a half-day). I met we'vegotseoul in Dongdaemun because she needed to get some pillow stuffing. I managed to find some for her in Shopping Town (Dongdaemun Station exit 8 or 9) using my very limited Korean skills (basement, D-dong). I also managed to find some yarn, which I swore I wouldn't buy today. I think we were in the building all of five minutes when I happened to find a specific brand I had been looking for. It wasn't too expensive, though, and it added to the awesomeness of my day. I also bought some trinkety craft stuff on the top floor. I am going to try to make a few items, use them to see how they hold up, and possibly get an etsy shop going. But I'm not too sure on that yet. First I want to see how cute the stuff turns out. Perhaps I will post pictures here to get some opinions or suggestions.

After we did Dongdaemun, we walked to Himalaya Restaurant, which is right outside of Dongmyo Station exit 8. It's a nice place to chill out after some crazy wholesale shopping. We had a lovely chat about everything from our dear Korean husbands to our long-term plans. It's been a long time since I had a leisurely afternoon with a friend, so I really enjoyed it. WGS is so wise, too. She had some good suggestions and got me thinking about a few things I never considered before. Plus, we happened to catch Kim Yunah win the gold. All that combined with the amazing weather made for a fantastic day.

--> I just remembered --> And I found a vendor selling maedeup cord, so I bought four yards (two of each colour) to practice with. If it goes well, I will be going back for more, or ordering it online. I'm psyched!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ravelympics medal

Finally, I finished my event and got my medal for the Ravelympics. I mentioned before that I was going to be in the short track shawls event, but even a really simple shawl pattern can take a while. This year especially I'm short on time, so I had to choose a smaller project. I ended up entering the hat half-pipe with Odessa, a hat by Grumperina. It's a super cool pattern that is supposed to be done with beads. I wanted to use beads, but didn't have time to get to Dongdaemun to choose some appropriate ones, so this is a beadless hat. I feel so-so about it. It fits, but it's a little tight, so I probably won't wear it. I think Grace looks pretty cute in it though, so maybe it will just go to her. After knitting several years, i still have yet to knit a hat that fits me. I don't know what it is about hats...I just can't get them right. Anyway, this is a pattern I've always wanted to try, so now it's off my list. Also, it has justified my need for an interchangeable circular needle set. Knitting this on double pointed needles was really annoying. There are several brands of needle sets, and they can be pricey, so I'll have to do my research on this one.

Monday, February 22, 2010

New Stroller!

We decided to invest in a good stroller since spring is fast approaching and we will want to take Grace out for lots of walks. Our previous stroller was a "tester." When Grace was really little, I wasn't sure how much use I'd actually get out of a stroller, so did not want to go all out on a really nice one. I wanted to see if it was worth it first. So I bought a cheapie umbrella stroller for around 50,000 won. We used it a lot more than I thought we would. It was nice to not carry Grace sometimes. We took her to the local Homeplus a couple times a week in it, and I often threw her in there and walked with her to the Dunkin Donuts for an afternoon coffee. We also gate checked it on our trip to Canada, and it was great to have in the airport. It served us well.

So now that we knew a good stroller would be very useful, especially with spring coming, I decided to look for a nicer model. Grace is pretty heavy now, and you can really feel her weight in the old stroller. One of the handles is also loose, probably from the flight back to Korea. So we needed something smooth and comfy. I did a lot of thinking and a lot of looking. We have a beautiful little walking path by a river right outside our door, so I wanted something to make walks enjoyable. So I ruled out an umbrella stroller, although we may be in the market for a nicer one down the road. I looked at a Korean brand, called Cappella, and they did look quite nice, but it being a Korean brand, I just could not find enough reviews to satisfy me. In the end, I settled on the Kolcraft Contours 4-wheel model, and bought it on gmarket. Actually, it seems the vendor I used sold out of the 4-wheel model and I cannot find anymore vendors selling it -- only the 3-wheel, which also gets good reviews. Perhaps it is not available anymore.
It was a good decision, which I based on the many, many positive reviews I read on Amazon. Also, I had used a Kolcraft Jeep stroller at my parents' in Canada, so I knew it would be a solid stroller. It is rugged, but easy to push and steer. It's so much smoother than the stroller we had. My favourite feature (and Grace's favourite, too), is that the seat can face both facing out and towards you. This is great because Grace often gets a little fussy when she can't see me for very long, especially somewhere like the supermarket. It also comes with a car seat attachment and apparently it fits most car seats on the market.

We're really happy with our choice, and so is Grace. She squealed with excitement the first time we put her in it. We've already taken it out on several walks, even in the snow. She loves facing us. She even falls asleep in it sometimes!

I love finding good productsI

I'm a shopper. But I'm not a really materialistic person, or a brand chaser. I just like the thrill of the hunt and the satisfaction of finding a good-quality product. Last week I found a product I love, so I'm very excited.

Grace has sensitive skin, like some babies do. She's had some eczema and atopy since about 8 months old. One particular patch on the back of her knee got pretty out of control, turned all scaly and even bled. She's also had patches on her face, chest, and arms. When I was pregnant I bought two big bottles of the classic Johnson's baby lotion (pink bottle). Well, it just doesn't cut it, and it's heavily perfumed. I don't like it one bit. While in Canada I picked up a small bottle of Vaseline Problem Skin and that helped somewhat. It at least got me through until I could get her to a dermatologist in Korea.

Finally we saw a dermatologist and he said it was some mild atopy and eczema, which I already knew. The clinic sold me some Physiogel wash and lotion, and gave me a prescription for some medicated ointment. Skin cleared up quickly.

Physiogel is good, but it's damn expensive (you can buy it here on gmarket if you're interested). The two little bottles they sold me at the clinic came to over 40,000 won. They didn't go very far. Since her skin had cleared up thanks to the Physiogel, I slacked off a bit with the moisturizing, just using the Johnsons and the rest of the Vaseline. But lo and behold, some little eczema patches started coming back.

So we asked the pediatrician what to do about it, and he said to moisturize often with something that has ceramide in it (he did not give us any brand suggestions). I did not know what ceramide was, and am still not clear on it, but from what I've been reading, it is something that regulates skin cell growth. But where to start looking? Physiogel does contain ceramide, but as stated previously, it costs an arm and a leg. So I searched in the baby lotion section on gmarket and my impressive Korean reading skills (which I acquired by browsing gmarket so often) found me a product containing ceramide that gets very high reviews. Why not?

I chose Baby Clinic Sensitive Lotion by a Korean laboratory called Leaders Skin Group. I really didn't expect much for two bottles for 10,000 won. But let me tell you, this is a fantastic product. It is extremely mild and scentless, and at the same time very effective. Grace's skin looks 100% better and feels softer, too. I was never really into lotions before (for me or Grace); I thought they were all the same. But I like this stuff so much that I think I'll start using it myself. I'll probably get her the hair and body wash too. Seriously, I got two 285 ml pump bottles for 10,000 won -- with free shipping! See ya, Johnsons!

Like I said, I love finding a good product, especially a local one. I know there are plenty of other good baby lotions out there (Cetaphil, Atopam, etc). It's just that imported products are pretty expensive here, so while I appreciate product recommendations from friends back in Canada, I often cannot find those products in Korea easily, or shell out the cash without cringing.

My advice to expectant ladies: don't buy baby lotion in bulk right away -- wait to see if baby has any skin sensitivities. And go scent-free; babies already smell good.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Elegant Knotted Jewelry by Becky Meverden

I recently received Elegant Knotted Jewelry by Becky Meverden. I follow Becky's blog closely, so I was extra excited as I opened the package containing the beautiful book. I think I flipped through it about ten times before I actually read any of the text. The pictures alone are that great.

The book is about maedeup, the art of Korean knotting. It's something that most people haven't even seen before, never mind tried. That's why this book is so cool. It's the result of Becky's maedeup classes (in Korean, just going on translations from her Korean friend), hard work, and her passion for Korean crafts. There are even photos she took herself in South Korea, accompanied by little stories and explanations that make the book even more interesting.

The patterns are amazing. They are all beautiful and tasteful. I know I own some craft books that I bought because I liked a few of the patterns. There are always some filler patterns that are just "meh." Not with this book. You can tell that each pattern was carefully designed by Becky, and there is even a paragraph with each one that tells you where her inspiration came from. There is also lots of room for personalizing the patterns...choosing your own cord colours and beads, for example. The instructions are very clear and seem easy to follow, although I have not tried my hand at it yet. But I can tell you that I'm very excited to give it a go.

I really recommend getting this book and learning about maedeup. You can buy Korean cording at If you're in Korea, you can buy the cording in Dongdaemun (I haven't tried finding it yet, but I will update this post when I do with directions, or maybe Becky herself can let me know and I can post it). Or, you can order it online, which I am probably going to do at first. I found this site,, where you can buy the cording in sets of coordinating colors (and it's cheap!), as well as other necessary supplies.

Elegant Knotted Jewelry is really inspiring to me. Becky took her love of something so obscure to others in the world and wrote an instructional book on it. That is no easy feat. I've often thought about cultivating my own love for Korean crafts, but nothing ever got off the ground. I once tried to seek out a traditional ink painting class and couldn't find much. I even went to Insa-dong to try to find a private teacher, and it would have been possible, but pretty expensive. It's actually very hard to find classes on Korean crafts available to foreigners. I guess you have to do what Becky did and go with a Korean friend. Myself, I would love to take a maedeup class, and some others: ink painting, embroidery, hanji crafts, Korean patchwork, and lacquerware. It's too bad I'm leaving Korea soon. I think my time is running out to try these wonderful arts.

I will update when I actually try my hand at maedeup, probably some time next month after the Olympics (Ravelympics) are finished. I'm really excited about it.

Thanks for writing such a great book, Becky!
Edited to add:
Maedeup cord can also be found on Gmarket. This stuff is 1.5 mm width and comes in sets of coordinating colours. Is there anything that can't be found on gmarket??

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Not cut out for it

Apartment life. Having grown up in a house, I find living in an apartment building very difficult sometimes. There are some good things about living in an apartment building. There is very little maintenance and no yard to take care of -- but then again there is not one to enjoy, either.

Noise is the biggest problem I have with the building we're living in now. Actually, this is the first time I've lived in an actual apartment building. Over the course of the last nearly eight years, I've lived mostly in villas, those 3-6 story buildings. I lived in the first floor of a house in Icheon (Gyeonggi-do). We had our own little yard there, which I did not truly appreciate at the time, since it was my first year in Korea. Then on to the first floor of a villa in Mapo. I lived in an officetel in Ilsan, which was nice. It was brand new, loft style, and very modern. Again we lived in the first floor of a house in Haebangcheon near Itaewon. In Edae (Ewha Women's University area), we lived on the third and top floor of an old...building (I'm not sure the exact term for it). In Dongdaemun, we lived on the sixth floor (of seven) of a "mini apartment" building. It was a brand new building and we enjoyed being in the center of the city...until Grace came along. Now we're living in a classic apartment building in a complex. This is the type of place where most Koreans would want to live -- and I have no idea why.

Back to the noise. I can hear everything going on in other apartments. I can hear kids roughhousing, musical instruments, and toilets flushing. I was in disbelief at first. Now I'm not surprised, and I endure it, but I think it's only because I know I'm not stuck here forever. At first I thought, it must be the building -- all those millions of apartment buildings out there can't all be like this. But I believe they are, to certain degrees. When Sejin's family came over to wish Grace happy birthday, Sejin mentioned the noise problem to his aunt, who assured him that no, it's not just our building, because even in her building, which is much newer, there is a fair amount of noise. It's just the way it is.

This post came about because at 9:45pm tonight, I heard someone start playing the piano. I was angered because I think it's too late at night to be disturbing people like that (come on...if you need to play that late get a digital and use headphones). I went upstairs to see what was going on and they said they were not playing the piano, so I sent Sejin to investigate. He listened at all the doors until he found the piano -- 603 (we are 303)! The woman promptly apologized and the piano stopped. You can see how easily noise travels in this building.

The bigger problem here is that Grace is very sensitive to noise, always has been. As a smaller baby she startled very easily at loud noises and still sometimes does. The slightest noise from upstairs wakes her when she's in a light sleep. I was hoping she would become desensitized with all the noise around here, but it's not happening. It seems to be just the way she is. Luckily, she is doing very well, still sleeping through the night without my assistance, but she does sometimes find it hard to fall asleep when there is racket coming from upstairs. I feel bad about that because it's something I can't control.

It looks like this old building in Uijeongbu might give us the final push out of Korea that has been a long time coming. Until then, we will make the most of our time left here. Spring will be here soon and there will be lots of fun to be had outdoors. We will make lots of use of the great little walking path by the river, and I'd like to start taking Grace swimming at the sports center nearby. I also want to do some hiking in the spring since we are living between two massive mountains. Endure, endure, endure.