Monday, August 8, 2011

Such Sweet Sorrow

I left for Korea two years, one month, and four days ago today.

To say that spending two years with Fulbright Korea was life-changing would be a wild understatement.  It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, and it was often both of those things at the same time.  I'm immensely proud of the things I accomplished at my school, like coaching 3 teams of students to place in three separate major international science fairs, and of the work and play I did at the orphanage, like raising money for three computers and a library of nearly 100 English language children's picture books.  I'm also proud of the work I did on myself, like becoming a much better teacher, a more self-sufficient adult, and a pretty decent Korean cook.  I'm happy with the relationships I formed and nurtured, the preparation I did for successfully applying to graduate school, and the home away from home I made in my Daejeon apartment (and especially happy with JJ and my decision to use our first paychecks of the year to buy a phenomenally awesome 42" flatscreen).  I'm proud of the contributions I made to the Fulbright program, the Korean language I managed to acquire, the budgeting and resulting nugget of savings I guarded, the Thanksgiving in Korea dinner I organized, the short-lived but much-loved 2 D's and a B band (especially our "No Scrubs" encore at the embassy),

It's time to close down my Korea blog, which recorded, complained about, and celebrated an important, precious, and finite two-year period.  I like writing and blogging, and I hope to keep up with it in the next phase - my move to London for grad school.  Thanks for being with me for these last two beautiful, difficult, complicated, wonderful years.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Thanks for the Grapes, Lunch Ladies!

The super-cool lunch ladies at my school loaded me up with two bunches of leftover ginormous concord grapes as I was walking out of the cafeteria today.  Thanks, ladies!  I love Korean grapes!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

No Egg, No Milk, No Mixer? No Problem.

We've got about a week left in this apartment, and I'm trying to use up some of the food we've got in our cupboards and fridge.  Last night I made uber ramen (same as last week's recipe, but I had bok choi rather than napa cabbage on hand, and I added in a glug of Vietnamese fish sauce).  I also have baking things lying around, like flour, sugar,  cocoa, and baking powder, as well as some apples that are past their peak.  But we've already packed up our hand mixer, so I can only make something I can mix with a fork or big wooden spoon.  Plus, the only baking dish I have is the small glass one I bought this year at Home Plus.  I'm not sure of its exact dimensions, but it's a bit smaller than half a sheet of regular A4 paper, I'd guess 8" x 5".

I coudn't find anything online that used only those ingredients I have on hand, didn't require a mixer, and was scaled for a very small baking dish, so I tinkered with a few and gave it a shot.
Sometimes when you mess with or combine good recipes, the chemistry goes wacky and you end up with cake that's flat, dry, or just plain tasteless.
This wasn't one of those times.

It came out awesome.  Moist but light on the outside, with a dense and gooey lava cake center, chocolatey, rich, and delicious. It's the happy, well-adjusted love child of chocolate cake and a brownie.  JJ, who is in no way a hippie and/or vegan, would have had three slices if we'd bothered to slice it rather than just go at it with forks.  Bonus:  thanks to the applesauce, it's low-fat and vegan, for those of you who are into that sort of thing.

Easy No-Mixer Low-Fat Vegan Chocolate Apple Cake
Yields one small cake + 3 cupcakes
  • 2 c. flour 
  • 1-1/3 c sugar (white or light brown)
    • Optional - replace 1/3 cup sugar with honey (I used chestnut honey, which is aggressively honey-y)
  • generous pinch of salt
  • 1 heaping tsp baking soda
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup applesauce* (if using store-bought applesauce, add 1tsp cinnamon + 1/2 tsp nutmeg)
  • 2 tbsp vinegar (I used apple cider, but any white/light is probably OK)
  • 2 tsp vanilla 
  • 1-1/3 cups cold water
  1. Preheat the oven to 175C / 350F.
  2. Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.
  3. Make two wells.  Add oil to one and vinegar to the other.  Then pour water over the whole thing, add the applesauce, and mix together with a big wooden spoon or fork.
  4. Bake 40 minutes.  Serve with Chocolate Icing (below) or frosting of choice.
No Mixer (Non-Vegan) Chocolate Icing
  • 3 wedges Laughing Cow cheese (or other low-fat creamy cheese, I guess)
  • splash of milk
  • 50g powdered sugar (1/3 cup?)
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
  1. Nuke the milk and chocolate chips on medium for 30 seconds, stir, and nuke another 30 seconds.  
  2. Stir in Laughing Cow, then add powdered sugar.  Pour over cake.

You can use store-bought applesauce in the recipe above, but homemade applesauce is insanely easy.  
  1. Core and cut up 3 apples (you can peel them if you wish, I didn't), add 2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp nutmeg, 1-2 tbsp brown sugar, and 1/2 cup water.  
  2. Cover and cook for at least 20 minutes, then mash with a fork (or handmixer or immersion blender or whatever you've got).

                Friday, July 1, 2011

                How To Make Ramen Into A Tasty and Nutritionally Reasonable Meal

                Korean ramen -- or Korean lamyeon, which is how it gets romanized here, is an interesting phenomenon.  It's not just for impoverished college students (though it is for them, too) - you can get it in restaurants, and I see kids eating it outside of convenience stores after school.  It can cost anywhere from $.50 to $2.00, depending on the brand, serving size, and packaging, but it's tough to go through a whole day here without seeing someone eating ramen.

                Shin lamyeon is far and away the korean ramen of choice.  It's flavor is intriguingly if ambiguously described not as chicken, vegetable, or soy, but "spicy," and the photo on the front shows a bowl brimming with shitakes and vegetables.
                Of course, when you open the package, you'll find a distinct lack of actual vegetables within (though there's a tablespoon or so of the freeze-dried variety).
                Which brings us to lunch today: improved ramen.  Super cheap, and surprisingly yum.  I threw together all the veggies I happened to have on hand (except spinach and bell pepper...that seems more suited to omelette than ramen), and I recommend them because it turned out great -- but if you've got bok choi or zucchini, go to town.

                You will Need:

                • 1 serving Shin Ramyeon (or favorite non-Korean ramen, but I warn you - this stuff is delicious and has 285 calories,  some other brands have more than double)
                • ~1/3 of the included flavor packet
                • 1 1/4 cup water
                • A few glugs of soy sauce
                • 1 tbsp gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)
                • 1/2 tbsp minced (not powdered!) ginger
                • 1/8 cabbage, thinly sliced
                • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
                • 1 carrot, thinly sliced
                • 1 spring onion/leek/scallion, thinly sliced
                • 1 raw egg, or 2oz tofu, or cooked protein of choice
                1.  Add everything but the egg, noodles, and water to a non-stick.  Cook on medium until the cabbage reduces a bit, while you get out your bowl and chopsticks and drinks.
                2. Add the water and the noodles, and stir and cook for another couple of minutes. When the veggies are soft --
                3.  Add your egg or protein, stir until cooked.  Serve.

                Serves 1 hungry young adult.

                Wednesday, June 29, 2011

                Traditional New England 닭도리탕 (Dakdoritang) Recipe

                Last night, I attempted one of my favorite Korean dishes: dakdoritang, a spicy chicken and potato stew.

                It's Korea's incarnation of a pretty classic dish, one that you'd find in England, New England, France, Spain and probably anywhere else with chickens and an abundant supply of root vegetables.  Do you have a chicken?  Do you have potatoes?  Garlic, ginger, soy sauce, and hot pepper?  Then you, too, can make this.

                And yet despite the simplicity of the stew's ingredients, my coteacher Roy was surprised and impressed when I told him I planned to try it -- it's one of those things that Korean moms seem to instinctively know how to do, but there aren't good recipes lying around.  There are few ingredients, but the final product is far more than the sum of its parts.

                Though I tried to keep fairly close to tradition, mine turned a bit different than the classic Korean version.  But to my delight, it came out tasting like a delicious fusion of the American/ English vegetable stews I grew up with and the Korean stews I live with.  The broth was slightly spicy, rich, and butternut-y, the garlic and soy braised the vegetables into sweetness, and the chicken fell off the bone.  It tasted like a Korean mom had tried to make my mom's food, or like Paul & Elizabeth's restaurant had made Korean food.  In other words, it tasted like delicious traditional New England Dakdoritang.

                The authentic version, or at least the ones I've come across in my homestay, school cafeteria, and elsewhere (it's definitely more of a home cooking-thing, I haven't seen it much in restaurants), is spicy, complex, and delicious.  I've never had it exactly the same way twice, since it uses different ingredients according to what you've got on hand, but as long as you've got chicken, potatoes, and that special spicy, rich broth, you've got dakdoritang.

                About a week ago my school lunch (which is usually uninspiring) involved a version of dakdoritang with carrots, onions, and an new twist - pumpkin!  Delicate little slices of pumpkin (or maybe butternut or acorn squash, Koreans just call it all "pumpkin") added just the right balance of sweetness to the spice.  I had to try it.

                I wanted to try to make it before I left Korea, so that if I ran into any trouble I could ask an ajumma at the grocery store for advice.  Since I didn't have school today or yesterday,  I decided it was time for dakdoritang.

                So yesterday I picked up carrots, pumpkin, a chicken, and ssam jjang, which is gochujang (slightly sweet pepper paste) + dwengjang (soybean paste - think light-colored miso, but with a more complex taste and lumpier texture).

                Glory be to the Korean grocery store - 980 won for two giant carrots, 5,100 won for a chicken, 3,200 for a medium-sized squash, and 980 won for a small (170g) container of ssam jang.  Grand total: 10,260won, or $9.60

                To be fair, I already had potatoes, onions, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, and vinegar.  The only ingredient I don't have on hand nor did I buy was rice wine, since the recipes I've found only call for a couple teaspoons and I'm leaving Korea soon.

                Like a true Korean mom, I didn't measure anything precisely (I didn't have a precisely measured recipe to begin with).  Anything that says "tbsp" is likely a heaping tablespoon.  But if you follow the basic shape of this recipe, you should end up with a rich, hearty stew that tastes both familiar and foreign.

                Traditional New England 닭도리탕 (Dakdoritang)
                Serves 6, or 2 hungry young adults, with leftovers for both for lunch

                Cast (in order of appearance):
                Playing Sauce:
                • 3 tbsp minced garlic
                • 1 tbsp ginger
                • 1/4 cup soy sauce 
                • 4 tbsp gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)
                • 2 tbsp ssam jjang (maybe you could get away with 1 tbsp miso?)
                • 1 tbsp gochujaru, cayenne, or other hot pepper
                • 2 tbsp honey
                • 2 tbsp rice wine (or 1 tbsp vinegar, I had apple cider vinegar)
                Starring as a Chicken:
                • A smallish chicken
                The Ensemble: 
                • 3-4 c. of some combination of (chopped into roughly 1-2" chunks):  Potatoes, Sweet potatoes, Onions, Carrots
                • 1-2 c. + butternut or acorn squash, or pumpkin
                • Optional: 1/4 of a cabbage, sliced or shredded,  a few green onions or leeks


                1. Curtain opens on garlic,  ginger,  soy sauce, gochujang,  ssam jjanghot pepper, honey, rice wine or vinegar, and a cup of water in a big pot, being stirred together on medium heat.
                2. Cleaned, whole Chicken and heroic butcher's knife battle.  Knife wins.  Less tasty parts of the chicken (bones, back, whatever)  are submerged into the pot to simmer with the  soy sauce mixture.  Breasts, wings, drumsticks, etc, are set aside.
                3. Ennobled by chicken victory, Knife defeats all the root veggies and squash, and adds them to the pot.  The pot is brought to a boil, then reduced to medium heat, covered, and cooked for about 10 minutes.
                4. Uncover, add the chicken pieces, and simmer.
                (20-30 minutes, stirring when you feel like it.).

                5.  Cabbage and green onions open Act II, and simmer for at least 5 minutes, but up to 20 (divas!), while you set the table, get out drinks, check your email, or whatever.  When it's thick and stew-y, it's ready for the finale!

                Serve with makkolli and rice, and follow with slightly too much apple-lemon upside-down sponge cake.  Or at least, that's what we did!

                This is delicious.  I'm so full of stew and cake that I can barely move, but I'm looking forward to the encore tomorrow.
                I will totally make this in England.  The only ingredients I expect might be tough to track down is ssam jang and gochujang, but I planned to bring those over anyway.  It'd be super-fast if I prep the veggies beforehand --  you could even make the sauce mixture sans water, store it together with the chopped root veggies in the fridge, and throw that all in the pot 30 minutes before dinner.

                My family in the USA is vegetarian, so I'd also like to see if it'd be possible to make a similar dish without the chicken, maybe using vegetable stock for the base and adding garbanzos and/or pureed white beans to simmer with the broth.
                I rarely say this about CSHS's cafeteria food, but lunch was tasty.  It makes me think about how much I'm going to miss cheap, nutritious, good Korean food in London.

                Soba noodle soup, kimchi, pickled radish, omrice (thin egg omelette + fried rice & veggies in sauce).

                Whether London's curry houses can begin to compete is yet to be seen...

                Tuesday, June 21, 2011

                Oh Alright, Go Ahead.

                So I'd prepped the second half of my Romeo & Juliet lesson, which involves video from Shakespeare in Love and the 1968 and 1996 versions of Romeo and Juliet - except then 20 minutes before class when I double-checked my flash drive, it freaked out and declared that not only was nothing on it, but also it was full.  So I tried to borrow Roy's flash drive, but my computer helpfully gave me an error message in Korean.

                Fine, conspiratory universe  - you win!  Finals are next week, so I did what I could and then gave them 40 minutes out of the hour to study.

                Which works out fine for me, because I studied, too - I read some more of an article about Shakespeare in Korea. So far I've found 3 articles that are pretty directly about Shakespeare in Korea, and then another 3 on related subjects, like ESL Shakespeare or Shakespeare in Asia.  Hopefully I'll get my act together to write a short article that connects all of those things, and includes some of my own lesson plans for teaching Shakespeare in Korea and a review of the modernized, Korean-language production of Hamlet I saw in Seoul.

                Also, apparently the nutritionist (aka head lunch lady) at my school is super bummed because first grade students said in a survey that they don't like the food here.  Bummer for her, great for me -- today's lunch was delish: a twist on 닭도리탕 ("dakdoritang," spicy Korean chicken stew) that involved lots of pumpkin, really good fresh kimchi, stir-fried eggplant with sesame seeds, odeng soup (think gefilte fish's umami-er asian cousin), and-- of course-- rice.  I really should try to make 닭도리탕 before I leave Korea, so I can figure out what ingredients I can ship to London.  This recipe looks pretty legit -- I think I'll give it a shot next week!

                Wednesday, June 15, 2011

                Congratulations, Smith!

                Congratulations to my alma mater, Smith College, for a record-setting Fulbright year (press release here).  They've managed to garner 18 fellowships, out of 40 applicants.  I'm also happy to say that not one but TWO Smithies are coming into the Fulbright Korea ETA program this summer.  I was so thrilled to meet Molly (Smith '08, Fulbright Korea '09) at orientation, and she answered lots of my questions and made me feel right at home.  I hope I'll be able to do the same for Kim and Danielle (Smith '11, Fulbright '12) !

                Tuesday, June 14, 2011

                A Simile Poem about Obama, by 1-1 Students

                Obama's ears are like donkey's ears
                They are stumpy and long.
                Obama's head shines like the moon
                Obama is as fresh as extreme Halls.

                Love Poems for Kim Tae-Hee, from Class 1-3 and 1-2, Respectively

                Kim Tae-hee's eyes are like the most shiny, beautiful, big star
                They are just a beauty that we can't explain.
                Kim Tae-hee's smile looks like flowers in the garden in spring.
                Her hair is as long, soft, and smooth as the symbol of hope, Nile river.

                Kim Taehee's eyes are like the crescent moon

                They are shiny and beautiful.
                Her skin looks white like the snow
                Her lips are as red as a rose.

                Sunday, June 12, 2011

                Healthy(ish) Banana Nut Muffins

                Bananas -- portable, naturally pre-packaged, delicious, and a fabulous accompaniment to my beloved oatmeal breakfast. They're cheap here, so I buy them nearly every time I shop for groceries. I often can't eat them all before they start to turn -- but that's the part I love!

                Usually we make banana bread (JJ's recipe is tops), but I wanted to try something new, and something that's a little lighter in the butter department. Nothing beats cinnamon and spice-y winter breads, but come summer, I'm ready for light fruity sweets.

                So last week, I baked banana muffins, and to my delight, they came out great! I took one to work for breakfast for the next few days, and wrapped up the extras for my co-teachers.

                This week, I found myself in the same delicious overripe bananas predicament, and I decided to take it a step further in the right--or light (oh, Korea!) -- direction. The recipe, which makes 18 muffins, calls for 1/2 cup (a stick) + 2 tbsp butter. I hacked that in half and substituted in some delicious homemade cinnamon-vanilla applesauce, ending up with only 5 tablespoons of butter for the whole thing. I also substituted maple syrup and honey for 1/3 of the white sugar.

                Also, since I know how much I liked eating them for breakfast, I wanted to make it a bit heartier. To that end, I added a generous handful of steel cut oats and let them soak in the wet mixture for about 10 minutes while I mashed up bananas, measured out the dry ingredients, etc. I also crushed up some almonds and cashews I had lying around and added them to the sugar/butter/flour mixture that makes these muffins sing. Here's the final recipe:

                1. Wet ingredients: Blend 1/2 cup white sugar, about 1/4c brown sugar and 3 tbsp butter with a hand mixer. Mash up 5 overripe bananas. Add that, 1 egg + 1 egg white, about 1/3 cup of applesauce, (optional: + a handful of steel cut oats) to the rest.
                2. Dry ingredients: 2 cups flour, 1.5 tsp baking powder, 1.5 tsp baking soda, pinch of salt, 1 tsp cinnamon.
                3. Blend wet + dry, just until combined.
                4. Topping: 3 tbsp flour, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup crushed nuts, 1tsp assorted spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, whatever you've got around)

                Bake @ 190C for 18 minutes. Enjoy!

                Friday, June 10, 2011


                Today I made breakfast, read a bit, then took a 70-minute walk (I timed it!) which ended at Home Plus. I pretty much cleared us out of fresh fruit and veg with my omelette, so I was in the market for raw veg. When I saw that they had peanut sauce and chili sauce with a picture of Vietnamese summer rolls, I asked the Home Plus guy down the aisle if they sold the rice paper wrappers, too.

                Well, to be fair, I pointed at the picture and said "pet-uh-nam ssam issoyo?" which I was hoping meant "is there any Vietnamese wrapper-y stuff here?" Whether he was spurred on by my excellent pointing skills or my bewildering Korean I shan't venture to guess, but in any event, he immediately directed me toward the rice paper in the next aisle. Score! So tonight's menu:

                Fresh Veggie & Shrimp Summer Rolls:
                1. Get some medium- or large-sized fresh shrimp (the cheapest at Home Plus had all the shells and heads and stuff, but it cost $1.90 for a dozen). Clean, shell, and devein shrimp. Cook them in a little water and lime juice until done. Set aside.
                2. Chop up into little strips the following: a yellow sweet pepper, a cucumber, a carrot, lettuce.
                3. Soak the rice paper in warm water for about 10 seconds, then fill it with a couple shrimps and all veggies above, plus a healthy dose of peanut sauce.

                Pan-Asian Pan Fried Sesame Chicken & Broccoli
                1. Wash a couple of boneless/skinless chicken breasts and cut them into ~2" strips.
                2. Marinate them in: 5 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tbsp maple syrup, 2 tbsp ginger, 1 tbsp garlic, 1 tbsp gochujang (or other spicy/pepper sauce), 1tbsp tonkatsu sauce (or steak sauce, I guess).
                3. Steam a whole bunch of broccoli (2 cups-ish?)
                4. Drag them through 1/2 cup of flour (or 1/2 cup of matzo meal from the giant thing that our neighbor Tyler willed to us when he went back to 'Merica) and fry 'em up in a nonstick with as little oil as is sensible. Cook for about 4 minutes on medium-high, then flip and cook another 2-3.
                5. Add the broccoli and the marinade and simmer until the sauce reduces a bit, maybe another 2 or 3 minutes.

                Voila! Reasonably healthy deliciousness can be yours in about 40 minutes! (provided that you, too, have a wonderful boyfriend/cooking partner/roommate/indentured servant who will chop veggies while you deal with chicken)

                Wednesday, June 8, 2011


                Breakfast today - Earl grey in my Contigo (i use it all the time, thanks mom!) and a homemade lowfat banana muffin (I made 14 last night and brought one for Mr. Moon, Roy, and the office assistant).

                There's something highly civilized about having an hour at work before I have to get up in front of the kids to have for tea, yummy muffins, and the NY Times.

                Countown: 40 days left in Korea

                Friday, June 3, 2011

                Caramelizing onions

                Pros: my apartment smells like sweet, savory, buttery France
                Cons: my apartment is now hot as hell, and I haven't even preheated the oven for the pizza yet.

                You will need:
                • A decent non-stick pan
                • a silicone spatula or wooden spoon
                • a tablespoon of butter
                • 2 onions
                • 2 tbsp maple syrup (you could use brown sugar or honey, if you like)
                • a pinch of salt
                1. Slice the onions as thinly as you can
                2. Melt the butter in the pan on low heat
                3. Add the onions and stir in the salt and maple syrup
                4. Cover and cook on low for 7-9 minutes. Crank it up to low-medium, uncover, and cook for another 5ish minutes.
                5. Layer it on pizza dough with garlic and olive oil, tomato slices, and feta.

                Conclusion: SUCCESS! pizza was fabulous.

                Thursday, May 26, 2011

                Eleven Plays Written by Shakespeare, According to My Korean Sophomores

                1. Romeo & Juliet
                2. Hamlet
                3. Macbeth
                4. Otello
                5. Summer Dream Night
                6. Shopkeeper from Venice
                7. Lear King
                8. King Caesar
                9. "Training of....Something" or "Girl Training"
                10. Twelve Nights
                11. Pericles

                Pericles!? Seriously, one girl from class 3 said Pericles. Coulda knocked me over with a feather.
                Also, I'd like to see "Girl Training," which I can only assume is a Korean "10 Things I Hate About You"-style update of Taming of the Shrew.

                Tuesday, April 26, 2011

                Things Students Have Given Me Today

                1. An orange
                2. Two packets of plum tea powder
                3. A bottle of lotus leaf iced tea
                4. A single Crunky ball

                Monday, April 25, 2011

                Χριστός ανέστη!

                So these two Jewish Fulbright fellows decide to throw an Easter brunch in Korea. It sounds like the beginning of a sub-par joke, but it's pretty much what happened today.

                While Korean food is amazing, I (and lots of other Americans here) have always have trouble with Korean breakfast. Americans may have lots of food issues, but when if comes to breakfast, they know what's up. And in Korea, while I usually throw together a quick omelette or toast + jam, I secretly want pancakes. Lots and lots of pancakes.

                So on this fine Easter Sunday, we invited the crew over for pancakes. Berry pancakes, chocolate pancakes, banana pancakes, ginger pancakes. Pancakes with jam. Pancakes with syrup. All the pancakes you could want, and then some. Rachael & Emilee brought juice, Sarah brought some gorgeous strawberries, JJ made banana bread -- the whole thing was wonderful and delicious.

                The piece de resistance, however, was not at all pancake-related. JJ's parents kindly sent him some Easter candy (not a popular/available item in Korea, weirdly enough), and he organized what has got to be the world's funniest Easter hunt. Thanks to this Sunday's festivities, we can now answer the age-old question "how many Fulbright fellows does it take to find two handfuls of chocolates hidden in a studio apartment."

                A Glee-ful ESL Lesson

                Return of Glee! Man, episode 1x10 really works great for this lesson. The melodrama of that opening line -- "Quinn's pregnant and Puck's the father, but everybody thinks it's Finn" -- what a great hook. And Mr. Schuster & Rachel's duet on "Endless Love" is fantastic. You don't often get excellent and subtle physical comedy in teen-targeted TV.

                Wednesday, April 20, 2011

                Preparation is Key

                i'm downloading free physics, chemistry, and earth science textbooks

                so if I get sent back in time
                i'll be ready.
                - JJ, via gchat

                Friday, April 15, 2011

                Health-ified Cheesy Eggplant Parm and Ginger Peach Cake

                • Healthified Cheesy Eggplant Parmesan:

                  1. Slice up 2 medium eggplants + 1 large zucchini. Dredge them in a couple egg whites and then seasoned breadcrumbs(or, um, cracker crumbs if you're me)
                  2. Bake 'em for ~15 minutes/side at 375F
                  3. Combine 1/3c milk + 2tbsp minced garlic + 3 tbsp flour in a saucepan. Bring up to medium heat, whisking constantly (...or cheating with an electric handmixer). Gradually add in another 3/4 cup milk and bring up the heat. Keep whisking, it'll thicken.
                  4. Add 1 cup marinara sauce + 1-2 tbsp tomato paste + pinch of salt/pepper + a generous handful of spinach. Combine and mix until it's thick again. (Optional: add a wedge or two of Laughing Cow light cheese).
                  5. Alternate layers of creamy tomato sauce, baked veggies, and part-skim mozzarella (I like the smoked kind) in a baking dish. End with mozzarella on top, and sprinkle a couple tablespoons of parmesan on top if you feel inclined.
                  6. Bake @ 375F for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and delicious-looking.

                  Serve with salad and whole wheat pasta. Yields 4 hungry teenage boy-size (or 6 normal) servings.

                • Ginger-Peach Upside-Down Cake:
                • 6 tbsp butter, room temperature
                • 3 tbsp apricot or peach jam
                • 3 tbsp fresh grated ginger
                • 1/2 c brown sugar + 1/2 c. white sugar
                • 1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
                • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
                • Pinch of salt
                • 1/2 tsp cinnamon, pinch of nutmeg, a few pods worth of cardamom
                • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
                • 2 eggs
                • 1 tsp vanilla
                • 1/2 cup milk (or buttermilk -- I used 1 small yogurt drink and the rest skim milk)
                • Half a can of peaches in juice

                1. Cream butter and sugar.
                2. Add eggs and vanilla
                3. Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl
                4. Alternate adding dry ingredients and milk.
                5. Lay peach slices on the bottom of a greased baking dish. Cover with batter.
                6. Bake for about 50 minutes at 350F/175C. Let cool for 15 minutes, then invert on a plate. Try not to eat it all at once.

                Makes 8 generous servings...or you could give away a couple big slices and then finish the rest between two people like we did.

                Thursday, April 14, 2011

                Magical Latin Spells by My Students

                Today: Using Latin to make spells and stage Harry Potter-style wizards' duels.

                1. Check in: "if you could invent a magic spell, what would it do?"
                2. Latin magic in English-language media: clip from BtVS 4x17 "Don't speak Latin in front of the books" and wizard's duel scene from HP & the Chamber of Secrets movie.
                3. Dialogs & duels: Ss make two "spells" using Latin & Greek roots and affixes, then write a short dialog and perform a dueling scene!
                Par example:

                Patrick vs. Richard:
                R: Why are you always ignore me? I'll see I'm stronger than you, let's fight! Abspecto! You can't see anymore!
                P: Oh no! My eyes. I can't see. Patersortir! I kidnapped your father. If you moved, I would kill him.
                R: Caedere manus!
                P: Oh my hands. But I have toes. Caesere Lingua! I win hahahaha.

                This lesson was super awesome. And in two out of my three classes so far, it was a huge huge hit.
                But for whatever reason, half of class 2-2 thought they would just take the day off. Every time I checked on them they acted annoyed, and they never did any work. Just checked out. There are few things more depressing than pouring energy into a black hole made entirely of too-cool-for-school 16-year-old boys. Trying to not let it get me down so I can bring some positive mojo to the last class of the day...

                Tuesday, March 29, 2011

                An Open Letter to Starbucks Via Cinnamon Spice Coffee

                At first, I looked down on you. Why, I asked myself, would anyone spend money on sweetened instant flavored Starbucks? You go to Starbucks for a badass cup of drip coffee, and if I want the pre-sweetened flavored stuff I work in an office full of Mocha Gold.

                Oh, how wrong I was.

                You -- hot, dark, and sweet -- you are perfect for me. I pour a little milk in my travel mug when I leave the house, and you are waiting for me when I get to work, all compact in your cute little Via packet. After I race around making copies, prepping materials, and dealing with the inevitable morning crazies, you're there, ready. You don't even get upset with me when I sometimes get in the mood to dabble with your friend, Mocha flavor. You know I love you best.

                So thank you, for being not too sweet, not too overly flavored, and not weirdly burned and bizarrely barbecue smokey like the Italian Roast. I'm not afraid to say it -- I'm glad you're in my life.


                Kaye Teacher

                Monday, March 28, 2011


                Today's Lesson: Commercials (day 1)
                Today's Videos: Britney for Pepsi, V8, Budweiser "Wussup"
                Today's Lunch: rice, cabbage kimchi, shrimp tempura, seaweed & potato soup, individual silken tofu pack w/ soy sauce.
                Today's Outfit: black Gap stretch slacks (remember shopping at Gap? I wonder how long I've had these...), Anthropologie white sleeveless blouse, pink RL sweater (thanks for the sweater set, mom!)
                Days Since Coming to Korea: 631.

                Even though I've only been in Korea for two years, the fact that the school year sort of runs with the calendar year (starts in March, ends in January) means that my 4 semesters span 3 school years. Because of that, today was the third time I've taught my commercials lesson. I had to up my game and make it significantly more difficult this time, because the kids are really, really talented. Of course, there are some students, probably half, that are at the same level as last year's incoming first-years were, but as I have several outspoken, talented leaders in each first-grade class this year, I feel like they're challenging me to challenge them.

                So this time, I added a bit where they have to decide what timeslot they'll show their commercial in, and explain how it helps them reach their target audience. So far, it's going super well.

                Thursday, March 24, 2011

                Double Oops

                Oops #1: I told JJ that I was thinking about chicken for dinner, but didn't tell him that I was going to the grocery store after school. About 20 minutes after I got back, he came back...with a chicken. And also fresh mussels. Ooops.
                Oops #2: We have leftover sweet almond paste and cherry jam from making hamentaschen, so I picked up a can of peaches thinking I'd make upside-down cake with all of those things. I couldn't find a recipe for peach-cherry-almond upside-down cake, so I went back and forth with a few recipes and made it up as I went along. Somewhere in the back and forth-ing, though, I managed to use nearly TWICE the butter I should have. Oops.

                Dinner tonight:
                1. fresh mussels with rosemary and garlic
                2.Spanish rice (read: rice with sauteed onions, cumin, salt & pepper, chicken stock, and 1/3 of a salsa jar)
                3."Mexican" chicken (read: Chicken smothered in El Paso taco seasoning)
                4. Baguette from Tous Les Jours
                5. Giant way-too-buttery Ginger Peach Cherry Marzipan upside-down cake.

                I'll let you know how it goes -- I'm gonna try the cake anyway, because I'm curious whether the flavors go together. In addition to the fresh grated ginger, canned peaches, cherry jam, and homemade marzipan, there's also cinnamon, the crushed contents of 1 coriander pod, and a pinch of nutmeg.

                Monday, March 21, 2011

                Schedule Change

                When my coteacher said there had been a schedule change, I feared the worst. But fear not -- my sacred Fridays are safe!
                The change involves a small shift in my Monday and Tuesday schedule, with a couple of classes back-to-back rather than spread out, but I'll still arrive and leave at the same time and teach the same number of hours. The major change is to Wednesday & Thursday, where my Wednesday morning classes have been moved to Thursday afternoon. So I'll get home later on Thursdays, which means I can't run errands on Thursdays like I usually do, but I'll have more prep time for Wednesday and Thursday lessons. I definitely won't miss the marathon of 3 back-to-back 2-hour lessons. Those were exhausting, and I'd always spend Thursday psychologically and physically recovering.

                I'm hoping this will mean that I'll have enough time to prep the best-ever lessons for my second graders, and avoid the attitude deterioration and cycle of frustration that can happen when they realize their other classes are more important for university applications and they check out. Maybe if I more fully accept my role as edutainer for the second graders, we'll get through it relatively unscathed! So say hello to more and better organized games and music video-based lessons than last year's second graders got.

                Sunday, March 20, 2011

                Foodaism: Purim Edition

                I loved making hamentaschen with my host siblings last year. It was pure silly fun, and the cookies were fantastic.

                This year, Dave and Sonja came over to make cookies. We had quite an array of filling options, including cream cheese, marzipan, chocolate, jam (strawberry, raspberry, cherry, and thanks to Sonja, apricot), and prunes. Few things make me happier than baking with friends, and one of those few things happens to be finally beating JJ at Wii. The guy has a gift, and it was getting to be embarrassing watching my little Wii avatar crumple in despair after every game. Or match. Or whatever, tennis is weird. Anyway, I totally beat him, and Dave. Finally!

                Back to the cookies. The winning combination, in my humble opinion -- and let me say I think I sampled every possible cookie combo -- was marzipan + cherry jam + prune. Tart, sweet, and overall fabulous. I also bought these little cheese things that seem to be the Danish version of Laughing Cow, but taste a bit sharp, like some aged white cheddar snuck in there. That + raspberry jam was a distant second-placer.

                Extra cookies went home with Dave and Sonja, and extra extra cookies went to coteachers. Extra extra extra cookies went into my mouth.

                Pics on JJ's blog here.

                Friday, March 18, 2011

                Fridays Off

                One of my favorite things about my life in Korea -- maybe even my #1 favorite thing -- is that I haven't worked on a Friday since my first semester.

                I like going to school, and I like my job, but I love sleeping in. This morning, I spent the first hour of the day watching Rachel Maddow and eating oatmeal brought from America (thanks, mom!)

                Steel-cut oats (Scotland via USA) with almonds (California via Korea), raisins (Korea), diced persimmon (Korea), Peanut Butter & Co's cinnamon raisin PB (NYC), and brown sugar (Korea) -- delicious global breakfast!

                Wednesday, March 16, 2011

                Ickle Firsties are Super Legit

                So the incoming freshman class at CSHS is intense. There are several who are crazy good at English, and when I put out the word about having an English-only lunch, the response was overwhelming.

                This is a whole different animal than the friendly, casual hangout sessions I shared with the third grade students last year. First of all, there are 13 people instead of 5. And these first graders, man, they want me to prepare stuff. And they looked at me like I should have some kind of syllabus or itinerary or something. One kid was there unabashedly just for the doughnuts.

                Here's what we decided at the end of the meeting (when did this turn into a "meeting" instead of just "let's hang out and have lunch together and chat in English?"):

                1. Next week, we'll meet in the English classroom from 12:50-1:20, which is after everyone's finished eating but before the next class starts
                2. Students are going to think up a name for the English Club (apparently we're a club now?) and we'll vote next time.
                3. I'll choose a recent news article and print out copies to distribute on Monday. They'll read them and we'll discuss it at our next..."meeting" I guess
                4. I asked everyone to come up with a Korean vocab word to teach me. They have to write out the word, a definition in English, and use it in a sentence. One of the girls asked "what level Korean?" and I was like uhhhh yeah I have no idea. So we'll see where that goes.

                Also, I made flashcards with their names and pics. So that's gonna be helpful, I hope...?

                Korea Herald Article

                My article for the Korea Herald about volunteering and the PC Project was printed this morning. See it online here!

                Monday, March 14, 2011

                White Day: Not as racist as it sounds

                In Korea, Valentine's Day is the day when girls give boys candy.
                Boys wait until White Day, one month later, to give girls the goods.

                I always thought that was completely ridiculous (like one hallmark holiday isn't enough?) until this month, when my very long day concluded with me coming home to this:

                Actually, when I got home it also had "HI" spelled out in Peppero boxes. Yep, it's been official for a while now, but it bears repeating: my boyfriend is the cutest.

                White Day

                Okay, for some reason (it may be that I couldn't get the TV to connect with the computer to play "Get Your Head in the Game" to pump everyone up at the beginning), they are not as enthusiastic about the majesty and elegance that is GRAMMARBALL as previous generations have been, but it's okay. Even without peak enthusiasm, this lesson is still awesome.

                Also, thank you students, for the lollipops, and thank you office assistant guy, for the chocolates!

                Aaaand it's 3/14 pi day, which means that whoever knows the most digits of pi in the class will most definitely be getting a sticker. So far, no one has beaten me....3.14159265358979. Put that in your pi-pe and smoke it.

                Tuesday, March 8, 2011

                You're Free to Hydrate


                I Have Too Many Babies

                So if you know me, you probably know that I like babies. Of any species. And midgets. Anything small, really -- but it all stems from an essential part of me that is happiest when there's a baby in my lap.

                Since it would be mega-inconvenient to have one of my own for the next few years, I've taken to borrowing babies. Babysitting (you mean they'll pay me to do this?), teaching, volunteering -- just give me something little to snuggle, and I'll show up and do whatever it is that I'm officially there for.

                Which is why I was so surprised at how exhausted I was after volunteering yesterday. I've never been so out of it with them before -- usually all of that kid energy buoys me up, but this time I just felt overwhelmed.

                I can discern two reasons.
                First, this orphanage visit was less organized than usual. Last year, I lucked out by volunteering with 3 Korean speakers. This time, there are only 2 other volunteers, and only Esther speaks Korean -- which means that JJ and I have to call out to her to run around and translate everything. It's stressful for her, for us, and for the kids, who are too little to grasp the concept of languages. I'm pretty sure the kids just think JJ and I are being uncooperative or uncaring when we can't respond to their questions or requests -- they don't understand that we just can't understand the vocabulary they're using, regardless of how loud they repeat it.
                Second, this visit is the first since we rescheduled. We had been coming on Thursdays, and now we've switched to Mondays. Add that to the fact that I'm now volunteering in Seoul every other Saturday teaching the rambunctious 5- and 6-year-old children of North Korean refugees ("teaching" is actually a pretty generous word, in reality it's about 40% English instruction and 60% trying to get the kids to stop running to the window and dropping paper and spitting on people walking on the street below). Thanks to a confluence of scheduling stuff, that put me volunteering with children who don't speak English on Thursday, Saturday, and Monday.

                It was exhausting.

                Because they can't understand me most of the time, I get the frustration of communication challenges and of good old fashioned disobedience.

                I think -- I hope -- that there is a cure for this problem. Preparation. Next week, not only will I have a less intense schedule, but I'll also go in better prepared. JJ and I will bring a children's picture book so we can start off the volunteering session with a relatively calm and focused activity.

                For a while now, I've wanted to start a mini- English library at the orphanage. If all goes well with the reading time, I'll apply for a small grant from KKOOM to buy some Dr. Seuss, Babar, and other classics that we can read with the kids and then leave at the orphanage.

                Monday, March 7, 2011

                Best Semester Ever

                Listen, I had it pretty sweet last semester. But here are some improvements:

                1. One less teacher class (down from 4 hours/week, which was more than any other ETA I know)
                2. I don't have to go to Monday morning teacher meetings anymore (good, because I don't understand anything they say, and I always need that 20 minutes to print something)
                3. I retain the hour of prep time before classes on Monday and Tuesday, but my schedule gets bumped up an hour after lunch, so I finish at 3:10 rather than 4:10.

                I'll use those hours that I'm saving on Mondays and Tuesdays for the killer commute to Seoul for my new volunteering gig, teaching the 5- and 6-year old children of North Korean refugees. They know their A-B-Cs, numbers to 20, a few colors, and some non-useful words presumably off of an A-is-for-Apple poster (like, say "alligator").

                New schedule for the orphanage, too. Mondays at 5:30 this semester. Esther, JJ and I are going today, and we're planning to teach them a little hand clapping game. Wish me luck!

                Sunday, February 6, 2011

                Our apartment smells like banana bread already.

                JJ, you're the best.

                Saturday, February 5, 2011

                Back in the ROK

                Well, folks, we're back! After a bit of travel, I'm back in Daejeon. I've spent the last couple of days just in my apartment, enjoying the awesome TV we bought at the beginning of the year -- man, that thing is huge! -- and appreciating just how great it is paired with the Wii JJ bought.

                It's a long weekend, thanks to Korean celebration of the Lunar New Year. Nearly every Korean business is closed, which means that nearby food options include Kraze Burger and Mr. Pizza. No thanks, guys -- the last thing I want is crappy American food. So yesterday, I picked up supplies for two of my favorite Korean foods. The soup was souper easy (heh heh) -- it's Korea, so Korean food is available in convenient forms at the grocery store. I found a pouch of soup that's totally done, you just heat it up and add whatever stuff you want. I can't believe I never did it before. I think it's because whenever I looked at the packages at the store, they had directions on the back. Simple enough in English, I'm pretty sure it all translated to "add water, add meat and vegetables if you'd like, heat up and eat," but it still made me nervous.
                But I found one that was clearly totally done, just needed to be reheated. So dinner:
                • 두부 김치 ("dubu kimchi"), which is boiled or lightly fried firm tofu and sautéed kimchi
                • 순두부찌개 ("soon dubu jigé"), a spicy clam broth-based tofu stew.
                • Rice. Perfectly cooked as always, thank you magic rice cooker.
                Not only was it incredibly easy, it was stupidly cheap. The soup was about $1, an extra thing of soft tofu was $.60, a zucchini was $1, and enoki mushrooms were $.90. Plus $2 of tofu and $2 of prepared stir-fried kimchi, and you've got dinner for two with leftovers.

                Oh Korea, I missed you!

                Thursday, January 20, 2011

                We Did It!

                Dear friends, family, and supporters of the PC Project (and especially those of you who are all three),
                We did it!
                $1,500 in 15 days was a tall order, but we did it --with an extra $30 to spare! It started on New Year's Eve, when Zack set up the PC Project on some of the social media fundraising sites he'd vetted. He then announced that he would personally match all donations given that night. Thanks to the generosity of the fantastic Smith and Brown '09 grads there that night -- who mostly, as one might expect, are working at non-profits or are knee-deep in grad school -- we raised $340.

                Then it was off to the races, as my family, Zack's family, JJ's family, volunteers past and present, friends, and even people I'd never met all donated. Students and professionals made donations ranging from $5 - $200, and it all added up to success.

                When we return to the orphanage the first week of February, it will be with three desktop computers. We'll get them up and running before the start of next semester, so that the 33 kids at the Daejeon Salvation Army Children's Home can have a better shot at graduating high school.

                Thank you so much -- I can't wait to post pictures and updates when we're back in a couple of weeks!

                Friday, January 7, 2011

                Fun Facts About Donors

                All kinds of people have been donating to the PC Project. People from New York, California, and Wisconsin, from Korea and Saudi Arabia. People who are students, doctors, musicians, teachers, lawyers, environmental activists. And they've made a range of donations, from $5 - $200. Here are some fun facts about donors and donations:

                • 20% of donors are graduates of Brown University
                • 15% are graduates of Smith College
                • 20% are people I've never met
                • 65% are women, 35% are men
                • 10% were born in Korea
                • 15% are currently enrolled in grad school
                • 20% are attorneys or law students
                • 24.7% of the money raised so far is from donations of $25 or less

                PC Project - $1000 down, $500 to go!

                Thanks to a $50 donation from 아기 곰 Ashley Stoffers, who has my thanks for not only that but also for being the volunteer through whom I connected with the orphanage, we've crossed the $1,000 mark.

                In only 6 days, with Zack Langway's social media savvy and donations and support from a truly fantastic group of family and friends, we're 69% of the way there.

                I have all the confidence in the world that we'll make it to the finish line. You can keep up with our progress in real time on (and I'll probably put up excited posts when other donations come through!)

                I am so, so excited for the day that I get to show up at the orphanage and tell the director that we've succeeded in getting computers for the kids, especially in time for them to use them for the new school year!

                If you can help, make a secure PayPal donation here.

                Sunday, January 2, 2011

                Update on the PC Project

                I'm still working to raise $1,500 by January 15 to buy 3 computers for the kids at the Daejeon Salvation Army Orphanage. You can see pics and blog entries from the very beginning of my time volunteering at the orphanage if you click on this link .

                A big THANK YOU to Zack Langway, social media expert extraordinaire. He took some time today to introduce me to some great tools to help get the word out about the PC Project. You can check out one of those by clicking on the widget below, which will take you to the brand-new "Causes" page for the PC Project.

                Just like donations made through the main website, donations through the "causes" page are made through registered 501(c)3 nonprofit KKOOM.