Levain Bakery Cookie Run

On this trip to New York City, a friend wanted to take me to “this place with the best cookies ever!”. After a couple failed attempts and with just a couple days left, I was determined to get us to “the cookie place”, before I left. The way she spoke so passionately about these cookies made me easily realise that if I didn’t make it there, I would deeply regret it forever (or until I came back).

With it being my last full day in NY, we decided to make that our priority. I invited another friend along and when I mentioned the name and place, she knew. She shared stories of her previous addiction to their treats and told us that at the time when she worked nearby, the cravings always won. The old monster wouldn’t be awakened this time because she was fasting. I was surprised she didn’t even make a purchase for later, but it just wasn’t worth going down that road again.

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When we arrived, the tiny bakery was packed so we stood outside in the rain and waited our turn. As we entered and I saw what lay before me, I got dizzy with excitement. These cookies looked more like they were members of the scone family, given their size and shape. I didn’t know which flavours to choose, so I went with all. I keeeed. I got three out of four. Heh. The ones I purchased were the chocolate chip and walnut, the dark chocolate chocolate chip and the oatmeal and raisin. The one outstanding was the peanut butter cookie. Believe me, I wanted it as well, but I had already gone overboard.

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A couple of other friends had joined us and after we made our purchases, we took our treats to a nearby coffee shop to enjoy with a drink. I decided to start with the dark choc chip. The chips oozed with deep chocolatey richness. Not too dark, but not too sweet. It was still warm from coming fresh out the oven. It was perfection. Slightly crispy on the outside, beautifully gooey and chewy on the inside. After my second bite I knew I wasn’t going to be able to finish it in one sitting. One of the other girls countered that she was going to finish it all. I would have been impressed if she could. She couldn’t.

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We sat there, chatted, laughed and annoyed people (presumably with our laughter) for a couple hours, before concluding our cookie meet up. It was totally worthy of my last day in NYC. I even had some left for my flight back to London the next night. Yummy time and money well spent!

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A Korean Wedding

First and foremost, please note that I am referring to a Korean version of a western wedding and not a traditional Korean wedding. The traditional Korean wedding was done in private.

When my friend Andrew invited me to this wedding, I was pleased since I’d never been to one. One of my New Years resolutions for last year (and I’ve kept it) was to do at least one new thing every month. In the run up to the wedding, I got introduced to Kate and she was lovely. We hung out a few times and just before the wedding, her then hubby to be had returned from Australia and we had dinner together.

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Fast forward to the wedding day. Andrew and I got our glad rags on and made our way to the hotel lobby. As we entered, there were some beautiful floral displays greeting us. People were elegantly dressed in traditional Korean Hanbok clothing, but most were in western attire. We signed a guestbook and then made a contribution. It’s customary to give money.

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There was a small room in which Kate sat and guests filed in and out for photo opps. She looked absolutely gorgeous. After that was the ceremony. As the music began to play and their family and friends made their way down the aisle. Then came the part that stood out most to me. I was straining to hear everything going on at the alter, albeit in Korean, because there were pockets of conversations dotted all around. As my attention shifted from the alter to my surrounding area, I noted that lots of people weren’t even paying attention! Many weren’t looking at the couple, others were talking with each other and lots were on their phone. Even one of her best friends who sat with us was tapping away on her phone and giggling to herself.

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It was all too much for me. I looked at Andrew with surprise and annoyance. He smiled knowingly. This was his third Korean wedding and the previous two had also been like this, he explained. He filled me in on his first experience and how shocked he was, but he quickly adjusted. After his recounting, I tried to follow suit. Reluctantly.

The lack of sincere gazes and misty eyes. The photographer constantly darting in and out of their faces. Some lady who’s job was to make sure Kate looked perfect at every moment, from every angle… who at the alter in the middle of it all would run in to shift a stray hair, then move the train of her dress this way, then come back and move it that way… who I must share, was wearing a bright pink top, jeans and trainers….yes, that bothered me greatly. All those, along with the constant murmur of voices meant there was a severe lack of the vibration of love in the room for me.

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That took away a lot from the experience. Some of it was redeemed by the heartfelt performance of a song by some of her childhood friends. Her sister also did a little dance routine with her school friends. I’m still not sure it was appropriate for a wedding, but it was really sweet nonetheless.

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Then came a lengthy photography session, which we were invited to be part of. After that came the reception. The food was buffet style and it was fantastic. Korean, Japanese and western dishes graced our plates. During this time the private Korean ceremony took place. Following that, the couple came out to the dining room to individually thank guests for attending. Kate looked stunning in her Hanbok. Seeing the couple dressed in their Hanbok was one of my highlights. We got a few pictures with the newlyweds and said our goodbyes.

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We decided to walk home due to our overindulgence. Then, we had a proper chance to talk and I reflected on the whole experience. It really felt like the part of the wedding we experienced was done just because the western style wedding is the thing to do. It’s like the shell of the idea has been adopted, but the yolk got left behind. That’s not meant to cause offense and of course this is just one experience. Perhaps if people would put down their phones, stop talking to each other and turn their attention to the stars of the day, sincerity and happiness for the couple would resonate more in the atmosphere.

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Wine tasting in Stellenbosch, South Africa

My friends had planned a little surprise trip to Stellenbosch prior to my arrival in Cape Town. When I got there, they told me all about it and it’s fantastic wine farms. I was delighted. I’d always wanted to go wine tasting and wine tasting specifically at a vineyard was actually on my bucket list. 20140730-131242.jpg
After an early morning surf with them, back at my accommodation, my mum and I got ready. Their friend also joined us and we drove about an hour to Stellenbosch. As we entered the wine country we were hit with yet more spectacular views of the landscape of South Africa. The sky was pristine blue and the rolling green hills unfolded before us, giving way to jaw dropping scenery. 20140730-132000.jpg
As we pulled up at the first farm, I was brimming with excitement. It was finally happening. We walked pass rows of grapes, toward the entrance. We couldn’t help but try a few. Naughty. Don’t do that. On the inside we were greeted by some friendly, knowledgeable staff. They gave us menus and told us the breakdown of their tasting process. If I remember correctly, we could try three white, three rosé and three red of our choice.
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We made our way to the seating area outside, under the shade of a tree and began. My friends had been there before, so they were able to share some knowledge on the wine tasting process. They also had a very helpful wine book with them. We made our way down the menu with pleasure. 20140730-132734.jpg
20140730-133315.jpg My mum was starting to lag a bit, since she isn’t really a drinker, but always a good sport. After chatting at length, taking photos and learning about the various wines there, we realised we would only have enough time to go to one more wine farm.
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Again, we rolled up to a gorgeous vineyard and entered a stunning, well kept older building. Dark woods and stately furniture inside handsomely matched the outside. We paid, got our wine lists, settled down outside and began. My mum was able to handle one more tasting before bowing out. Which was a bonus for my friend! Mum then moved to seating at the end of the deck, seeking a more panoramic view while we finished up.
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On our last couple of glasses of tart, dry reds, one thought unanimously descended upon us- food. At the end, we turned away from each other and focused on the view before us. The lowering sun, coupled with the unique rock formations of the mountain in front of us created some interesting shadows. Rows of perfectly lined grapevines surrounded us and peacocks paraded around vying for our attention.
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On the drive into the town, we were met with fantastic architecture everywhere. It was quaint and fairly quiet in comparison to Cape Town. We ate lunch in a venue that had overhanging vines, chunky wooden country style furniture and a roaming cat. The food was well enjoyed. On the drive home we stopped for ice cream. This rounded it off as a perfect Sunday for me- beach, wine, ice cream and a long drive. Perfection.

~~~The Wandering Pier

Time to lime

One of my best friends, Gabby, organised a little girls’ lime at her place in my honour ^_^ Oh, for those of you who don’t know, to lime is Trini speak for hanging out. Verb and noun. It was great to kick off our first round of quality time together in the comforts of her home, where conversation wise, anything goes and anything it went!
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G had also decided ahead of time that it was going to be a mega cheat day. That included pizza and drinks with chocolate cake and cinnamon rolls for dessert, which she made herself. The pizza was ordered from Mario’s, a local pizzeria. Since the arrival of new pizza places, most people have moved on from Mario’s and never looked back ㅠㅠ For me however, it’ll always have a special place in my Trini heart & I always try to have it once when I’m home on a visit.
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She also made chocolate cake. You all don’t understand. Baking is a recent hobby Gabby has taken up, starting about a year ago. So for months, I have endured numerous pictures of extremely delicious looking things from all the way on the other side of the world in Korea. Finally the day had come and I was too full! >_< Greediness gave me the encouragement I needed to have a slice anyway. Pure chocolatey heaven. My goodness.

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We spent the rest of the evening chatting away, doing manicures, watching hilarious videos on YouTube and laughing until it hurt. Thank you Gabby, for an awesome girls’ night in.

20140324-080305.jpg Cinnamon roll for breakfast 🙂

Tea time, treats & talks

My friend got married and bought a house while I was away! I didn’t get to see her when I visited last year, so this was a treat in more than one way. I got to see her beautiful new home and hear all about the lovely ideas she has for it. We spent quite a bit of time on Pinterest too, looking at some fantastic pictures and ideas.

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All this was done over fresh baklava ❤ and something new I tried called kaymak, a Turkish cream, on fresh bread with a drizzle of honey. It was a wonderfully tasty accompaniment to the great company. The occasion was also a stark reminder of the things you miss when you live an expat life. The trade off.

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Those firework moments…

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Last night a few girls came over to my place. My last opportunity to have any of them over for that kind of night… chilling, talking, offloading (my belongings). With my impending departure from Korea in a few days, my mornings and evenings are hectic.

In the midst of our chatting we heard some loud noises outside. I raised the blind and opened the window to reveal a shimmering display right outside my window. It was beautiful. We all huddled together on my bed to watch the soft hues highlighting the night sky. It was a lovely moment to have with my friends and a memory that I think will bring me lots of warmth for years to come. Proving once more, that amazing things happen when you least expect it.

Mudfest 2013 (보령페스티발 2013)

This was my second time at the Boryeong Mud Festival at Daecheon Beach. I went on the first of the two weekends (20-21/07/13). This time a large group of about 15 of us went down, compared to last year’s cozy foursome.

Road trip to Boryeong
Road trip to Boryeong
Arrived in the B!
Arrived in the B!

We stayed at a great pension nearby, where we barbecued and played some games in-between time spent at the beach. It was about a 5 minute walk to the beach and it accommodated all 15 of us nicely…even a few crashers too 🙂

The boys at work. Amazing ribsssss!
The boys at work. Amazing ribsssss!
Some beer pong action.
Some beer pong action.

watergun

deb

I didn’t actually get as muddy as I did last year, but I had so much fun swimming, partying, looking at the fireworks & air show and spending some good quality time with a couple of friends who were leaving Korea soon.

Muddy friends :)
Muddy friends 🙂
Newbies to Korea. Great way to kick it off.
Newbies to Korea. Great way to kick it off.
Bands to make her dance.
Bands to make her dance.

muddy

Awesome air show
Awesome air show

All in all, it was another fun year at Mudfest. I recommend it, if you’re up for some lighthearted, muddy fun at the beach.

Night time tings.
Night time tings.
Partying til the morn.
Partying til the morn.

tae

Home time. Thanks, Boryeong.
Home time. Thanks, Boryeong.