…somewhere between the stitches…

knit.crochet.sew.craft.cook.


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Preschool Adventures in Seoul: Outdoor Fun in Gangchon

If you’re a regular here on my blog, then you know that my sweet baby boys–who aren’t babies anymore–are about to start kindergarten. And to bid farewell to our carefree days at home and welcome in a new era of having school-aged children, we decided to take a fun-filled family trip out of Seoul!

Having experienced the insanity of travel on weekends, my husband decided to take a couple days off from work, and we planned our trip for Sunday through Tuesday. That way, we could avoid the mass exodus out of Seoul on Saturday mornings and the hectic trip back to Seoul on Sundays. The last time we traveled to the Chuncheon area, what should have been a 90 minute drive took us nearly 3 hours. Lesson learned… We left Seoul on Sunday morning and made it to our destination in 90 minutes flat. The drive home was even better. Door to door in 80 minutes! How’s that for efficiency??

I found a wonderful little pension–Dabol Pension–just outside of a town that we’d driven through the last time we were in the area. We’d seen a little amusement park, another bike rail park, and lots of ATVs and bike paths, and we had promised the kids we’d take them back. The drive from the pension to the little town of Gangchon took less than 10 minutes, and the place was perfect. I specifically searched for a place with a pool, and this place delivered! The pool was perfect for my little 5 year old swimmers. The water was no deeper than 2 feet, and the slide… Well, it was endless hours of entertainment! The only downside (for parents) is that the pool water is pumped directly from the little mountain stream that runs behind the pension. Meaning it’s COLD. ICE COLD. The kids didn’t seem to care. At all.

Dabol Pension Pool

Dabol Pension offers several different accommodation styles from Western style rooms for couples and/or families (with lofted bedrooms, kitchens and private patios) to Korean style rooms for larger groups (up to 10 people) and caravan/campers. Our family loves to go camping, and our kids especially love “car-houses,” so we opted for the camper. It was perfect for our family of 5.

Dabol Pension Camper

Inside, there’s a full sized bed and a set of twin sized bunk beds, a small kitchenette with electric stove, fridge, and dining table, and a bathroom. It also has air conditioning–woohoo! The built-on patio also had a charcoal grill and a table with weather screen in case of rain. It didn’t rain while we were there, but the screen did a decent job of keeping the bugs at bay.

Prices vary by time of year and day of week, but for our quiet non-weekend trip, the rates were very reasonable. 130,000W per night for 2 people, plus an additional 10,000W for each of our older children. Our youngest–who is 2.5 years old–didn’t count. ;-) The various rates are published on their website, but here are the general prices:

Caravans (2 people included in rate/4 person maximum) 130,000W for weekdays/150,000W for weekends
Western-style rooms (4 people included in rate/8 person maximum) 150,000W for weekdays/180,000 for weekends
Korean-style rooms (10 people included in rate/10-12 person maximum) 250,000W for weekdays/300,000W for weekends)

Prices for peak season are higher (peak season dates vary each year).

Aside from our fun at the pension, our 3 day trip to Gangchon was filled with excitement for our little ones. We hit the bike rails first:

Bike Rail ParkIf you’ve never heard of the bike rails in Gapyeong-gun, they’re an ingenious way to use old, out-of-use railroad tracks. There are 2 seaters (25,000W) and 4 seaters (35,000W), and you just pedal down the railroad tracks and enjoy the view! The last one we rode, which started at Gyeonggang Station, began and ended at the station. Halfway down the tracks, you were spun around and sent back to the station. The one we rode this time (starting at Gangchon Station) was 8.2km long and ended at Kimyookyung Station, which took about an hour and 15 minutes. From there, a shuttle bus took us back to Gangchon Station. The entire trip took about 2 hours. If you’re looking for a leisurely stroll, I would suggest taking the one at Gyeonggang Station. It was much easier! This one was definitely a work-out, especially since my 5 year olds are just a little too short to help with the pedaling! Oh, and another helpful tidbit–children up to 36 months old can be held on your lap. However, if you have a family of 4 and are able to seat your little one in a seat, do that because it’s MUCH harder to pedal with a kid sitting on your lap. Just ask my husband.

After our bike rail adventure, which included going through a tunnel–complete with fluorescent lights and Gangnam Style blasting on speakers (only in Korea!!!), we ate lunch and ventured over to one of several “adventure parks” in town for some kart racing and ATV rides.

Both were a HUGE hit, and really… Both were experiences that our 5 year olds AND our 2 year old would never have in the US, quite simply because of something called Safety Standards! For the kart racing, they just strapped our 2 year old in with one of the 5 year olds, told my husband that the second steering wheel that my son had control of also steers the vehicle so don’t drive too fast and sent them on their way! I was in another kart with the other 5 year old, and I had to MANHANDLE my steering wheel to keep us on the track.

Kart Racing

20,000W pays for 15 minutes on the track, which was more than enough to satisfy me, but maybe not the kids… ;-) After the kart racing, we went for the ATVs. 20,000W got us the ATVs for a full hour, and like the kart racing, they weren’t too concerned about safety–haha! We strapped our 2 year old into the Ergo on my husband’s back and off we went!

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There are numerous trails around town, and all they asked is that we not go into town. All of us had an absolute blast, and my boys deemed the day THE BEST DAY EVER. What more can you ask for?

Back at the pension, there was more pool-time, some hanging out on hammocks and grilling.

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Oh, and if you thought you had to start heating up your charcoal an hour before you planned to grill your meat, then you’ve never experienced Korean grilling. This was our first day’s lighting of the charcoal.

IMG_8901Day 2 got a lot more efficient.

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Why, yes! That’s a blow torch! Our coals were red hot and ready to go in 15 minutes flat. Korean efficiency at its best.

If you’re looking for a place to go with (or without) kids, I would definitely recommend this area. It’s not a far drive, there’s so much to do, and the beauty of the Korean country/mountainside never gets old.

 


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My Blissfully Happy, Unprepared Kindergarteners!

My baby boys start kindergarten in just 2 short weeks… Time has flown by, and I can’t believe that we’re already here. Although I have trouble remembering what my life was like before kids, I can remember being overwhelmed with feedings and diaper changes like it was just yesterday. It all happens so quickly.

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A year ago, my husband and I made the decision to not send the boys to preschool. We struggled with the decision, weighing the pros and cons, making lists, reading everything I could find on the real benefits of putting them in school at age 4 rather than at age 5. Plus, the cost of sending two kids to preschool at the same time is nothing to scoff at. When we finally decided to keep them home, the plan was for me to “teach” them the things they would have learned in preschool. At first, the kids and I did a pretty good job. We worked on our numbers and our ABCs… I planned lessons and printed out worksheets, put together craft activities and thought of creative ways for them to learn all the basics.

But after a while, I got frustrated with trying to keep my then 19 month old occupied long enough for us to make it through just one letter. A couple days would go by without me “teaching” them anything (it seemed), and I would feel guilty about it, and we’d try again to get through the letters and numbers we missed so we’d be back on track. It was a vicious cycle of frustration and guilt. Our daily lessons became more of a chore than anything else, but my friends whose kids were in preschool were already learning how to read, and my Facebook Newsfeed was full of posts about friends’ preschoolers who were academically doing so much more than my kids. Mom guilt can be unbearable.

Then I read this amazing blog post about what a 4 year old should know:

So here, I offer my list of what a 4 year old should know.

* She should know that she is loved wholly and unconditionally, all of the time.
* He should know that he is safe and he should know how to keep himself safe in public, with others, and in varied situations. He should know that he can trust his instincts about people and that he never has to do something that doesn’t feel right, no matter who is asking. He should know his personal rights and that his family will back them up.
* She should know how to laugh, act silly, be goofy and use her imagination. She should know that it is always okay to paint the sky orange and give cats 6 legs.
* He should know his own interests and be encouraged to follow them. If he couldn’t care less about learning his numbers, his parents should realize he’ll learn them accidentally soon enough and let him immerse himself instead in rocket ships, drawing, dinosaurs or playing in the mud.
* She should know that the world is magical and that so is she. She should know that she’s wonderful, brilliant, creative, compassionate and marvelous. She should know that it’s just as worthy to spend the day outside making daisy chains, mud pies and fairy houses as it is to practice phonics. Scratch that– way more worthy.

I remember feeling the guilt and stress and pressure of parenting lifting off my shoulders. All of the things I wanted for my children–right here–put into words and published by another mom. I wasn’t alone in all this!

So I stopped spending my evenings after putting the kids to bed planning out lessons and scouring the internet for teaching resources, and we stopped trying to force ABC and counting lessons while trying to prevent my daughter from eating paper and crayons and scribbling on the walls. Instead, we visited parks and playgrounds, went to museums and play parks with friends, took swim lessons and started martial arts classes. Over the past year, the boys have gone fishing and digging for clams. They’ve fed animals at petting zoos and ran around like lunatics at playgrounds. They’ve practiced riding their big boy bicycles and created masterpieces with play-dough. Their vocabulary (both Korean and English) has improved dramatically. They’ve spent time with friends and relatives and had regular lunch dates with Daddy. We attended story time at our local library and became involved in a weekly playgroup. The boys both hosted and attended their very first sleepovers. We caught tadpoles and found newly hatched baby birds inside an old mailbox. We baked cupcakes for our neighbors, took homemade cookies to Daddy’s office. They learned how to wash dishes and make their own beds (sort of), and we built forts and dressed up in full costume for epic lightsaber battles in the living room. It’s been a year of making memories with my too-quickly-growing children.

When we registered the boys for kindergarten, we were given a list of things kindergarteners SHOULD know before starting school. I scanned the list and realized that my boys are apparently completely unprepared for kindergarten because The List didn’t care that my boys learned about gravity at the Rolling Ball Museum or that they visited a working farm on the Korean countryside and saw how vegetables are harvested and prepared for sale. The List didn’t ask whether or not they understood how coal was made and used to heat homes in Korea or how clay is glazed and fired before it can be used. The List didn’t mention anything about how much they know about the lives of people like Abraham Lincoln and Amelia Earhart and Henri Matisse from books read to them before bedtime. The List didn’t know my children at all.

Our children’s experiences and memories and all the things they’ve learned along the way don’t fit on any single list. And amazingly–somehow–over the past year as we adventured through Seoul, this Type-A, always over-prepared, plan-ahead-obsessed mama has learned to let go. I tossed The List in the trash can. My boys are HAPPY. And that’s enough for now.

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Alice in Wonderland Dress

When a friend asked me to help her with her daughter’s Alice in Wonderland themed birthday party, I jumped at the chance! Alice in Wonderland is such a fantastically open-to-interpretation film that the possibilities are endless. We quickly decided on a general theme for the decor (which you can see over on the delightful. website), and I loved putting it all together, but there was something special that I just couldn’t wait to see the birthday girl dressed up in–an Alice in Wonderland dress!

I scoured the internet for other Alice in Wonderland dresses/costumes, but either they would take way more time than I had to make or they simply weren’t true to the Disney version of the dress. Mostly, my issue was with the shape of the straps on the white apron.

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Alice’s apron doesn’t have “straps” OR ruffles…

Alice-PNG-alice-in-wonderland-33922018-444-800The straps simply get wider as they get closer to the shoulder. And even though it’s a cartoon, and I know things translate differently in real life, I just love the simplicity of the Disney version of Alice’s dress. So… I had to draft my own pattern. Luckily, the birthday girl is the same size as my Penny, so I grabbed one of my daughter’s dresses and made a quick pattern for a dress.

I didn’t have too much time to work on the dress, so I really tried to keep it as simple as possible. One of the ways I toned down the complexity was to not add a waistband or shaping to the dress. It was going to be tied off at the waist anyway with the apron, so I didn’t need to create a bodice or any shaping around the midsection. For the sleeves, I hemmed the fabric while leaving enough room in the folded over fabric for 1/4 inch elastic. I made a simple Peter Pan collar for the dress, and rather than fiddling with a zipper or buttons, I just put an eye and hook closure at the back of the neckline.

IMG_8621Once the dress was finished, it was very simple to draft a pattern for the apron, especially since I could use my daughter to get the correct measurements. I simply drew the shape on a piece of paper, cut the fabric and got sewing! I searched for images of the back of Alice’s apron, but I couldn’t find anything from the back, the top of the apron is hidden by Alice’s hair. I just extended the straps and sewed the two pieces together at the back.

IMG_8622Here’s a photo of my reluctant daughter modeling the dress. She’s definitely got my-mom-sews-and-makes-me-try-on-everything-syndrome, and she hates trying stuff on for me. It usually involves tears and quite a bit of bribery. >_<

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Finally, to fill the bottom portion of the dress, I made a simple tulle skirt to be worn under the dress.

And here’s the beautiful birthday girl in all her Alice glory!

SONY DSCVisit delightful. to see more about the Alice in Wonderland party!

 

 


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More about delightful.

A few weeks ago, I announced the start of a new adventure for me–delightful. event designs by julia, and it has taken off beautifully! I’ve worked on a couple parties in the past few weeks, and I have several more lined up in the next couple months. Thank you so much to everyone for the support!

Here’s a little peek at what I’ve been doing over at delightful.

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If you’d like to see more about my event planning packages, visit me at delightful.’s new website and Facebook page!

 


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Preschool Adventures in Seoul: Transformers 30th Anniversary Exhibition at DDP

As my boys get older, I love that they play with the toys that we loved as children. Although I played with Cabbage Patch Kids and Barbies, I had an older brother who indoctrinated me in the ways of Transformers, Star Wars, G.I. Joe and Super Mario Brothers. We watched the cartoons and movies, owned the action figures, and occasionally, his G.I. Joes and my Barbies would get married before the Decepticons came and threatened to destroy life as we knew it. Thankfully, Obi Wan Kenobi and Optimus Prime were up for the challenge and all was right with the world. So when I heard that there was an exhibition or original artwork celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the birth of Transformers at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (in Korean only), I had to take my kids!

We headed out there early on a weekday morning–the best time to go to any public place here in Korea–and took the subway to the Dongdaemun Culture and History Park Station. Riding the subway apparently never gets old for 2 to 5 year olds, so woohoo! Mom is the greatest! ;-)

Transformers Exhibition sign

Once we paid for our tickets and entered the exhibition, the children (my 5 year old boys in particular) were in Transformers Heaven. The exhibition itself is fairly small; however, it covers all 30 years of design and artwork–from concepts and models for toys, sketches for cartoons and the development of the CGI graphics for the recent movies. So perfect for the geekiest of Transformers Geeks!

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We were able to walk through the exhibition in about 30 minutes; however, there’s PLENTY of other things for kids (and adults) to do. As you enter the exhibition hall, you can choose a coloring page with either Optimus Prime or Bumblebee on it, and there are easels, floor cushions, and loads of crayons, pastels, markers and colored pencils available in the gallery. Kids can make themselves comfortable right in front of their favorite Autobot and get coloring! And once you’re finished, take your coloring page to the gift shop, show them your awesome creation and choose a free Transformers postcard!

Hello Kitty Prime, anyone?

Hello Kitty Prime, anyone?

There are also a couple of activities located by the gift shop/cafe. My kids absolutely loved the Contruct-Bots building station, complete with instruction booklets so you can build your own Transformer. (Parents be warned: There is no building set for Bumblebee, and you cannot take the toy with you–the building sets are there to play with, not to keep.) I liked that it was FREE. ;-)

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I literally had to drag my kids away from here. There’s also a paper model building station, which costs 2,000W, and a little Transformers kart that kids can sit in and have their picture taken. It doesn’t go anywhere, but my 2 year old didn’t mind. She just sat it in for about 15 minutes, moving the mirrors around and pretending to drive.

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Directly across from this little display, there’s a staffed photo station. It costs 2,000W, but if you’ve spent more than 30,000W in the exhibition (including tickets, beverages and the gift store), you can show your receipts and get photos for free.

All in all, my kids and I had a great day. The exhibition is open until October 10, 2014, so if you or your kids love Transformers, then make plans to go!

Tickets:

Tickets are available for pre-purchase on http://www.ticket.interpark.com, but it’s only available on the Korean website, not on the English site. However, we didn’t have any problems purchasing tickets at the door.

Adults: 15,000W
Youth: 12,000W (junior high and high school)
Children: 10,000W (ages 3-12)
Children under 36 months FREE

They also offer family discounts:

2 adults and one child: 37,000W
2 adults and 2 children: 43,000W

Getting There:

The subway is probably the easiest way to get there. Get off at Dongdaemun History and Culture Park Station, Exit 1. From the doors that lead out to the Plaza from Exit 1, just walk straight ahead across the plaza to the building directly in front of the doors. This will take you to Building A. Tickets can be purchased just inside the doors. The Transformers exhibition is just a little farther down the hall.


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An Exciting New Endeavor

My blogging silence over the past couple of weeks is due to an exciting new business endeavor that I’ve decided to take on. It’s something that I absolutely love to do, and even before my official “announcement,” I’ve already got clients lined up and work to keep me busy over the next couple months (mostly because of my amazing friends, the power of word-of-mouth, and the wonderful community that I am blessed to be a part of here in Seoul).

So here goes… I’m super excited to announce delightful. event designs by julia (that’s me!).

Delightful Design

I am now offering event design services, focusing on creative and fun parties for kids although I would also be thrilled to design, plan, and style cocktail parties, wine tasting parties, dinner parties, and maybe even someday… The ultimate party–weddings! However, my focus is on smaller celebrations where I can really tailor the design and the experience for specific groups of people, whether it’s something like the Rainbow War Party for young children or an intimate cocktail party for close friends.

For the time being, my services are limited to Seoul, South Korea, but my Party-in-a-box options will be available for shipping throughout Korea very soon. Links to come for a new website and Facebook page!

And don’t worry! ;-) I’ll still be here…somewhere between the stitches… Blogging about my adventures in Seoul, all my crafty endeavors, and, of course, the fabulous parties that I have the privilege of designing! <3


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A Midsummer Night’s Cocktail Party in Seoul

If there’s something I love as much as crafting, it’s throwing parties. I love having friends over for the great conversation and memories, but for someone who is very detail-oriented, there’s something about putting together a party that gets me super excited and into full-on work mode! After all the fuss and planning of the Rainbow War Party for kids, I really wanted to do something for and with my own grown-up friends, and what’s more grown up than a fancy cocktail party???

My husband–the former bartender–and I put together a simple, summery cocktail menu. We wanted a bit of variety, but we also wanted to keep things relatively simple so he wouldn’t spend the entire evening mixing drinks. We settled on three drinks that were contemporary twists on classic cocktails:

Cocktail MenuWith all three drinks, we prepared and mixed as much as possible, so when it came to actually pouring the drinks, there was very little to do. In addition to the cocktail menu, I prepared take-home recipe cards of the drinks we served for our guests.

Cocktail Recipe CardsAll three of the drinks we prepared contained mint, which (to me at least) is a quintessential summer herb. I love the smell of mint, and having recently taken a trip to Vietnam with my husband where fresh herbs like mint, cilantro and basil are at the center of their cuisine, I decided to have an Asian-inspired food menu: fried spring rolls, fresh summer rolls, soba noodle salad with wasabi and lemon vinaigrette and Asian meatballs with a sweet sesame sauce.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Cha Gia, or Vietnamese spring rolls, are just delicious. The ingredients are simple, but making them is a labor of love. I made the rolls the night before the party and deep fried them, then fried them again slightly just before the party. My deep fryer could only handle 7 rolls at a time, so it took a while… The spring rolls were served with nuoc cham, or seasoned Vietnamese fish sauce.

Summer Rolls

Summer rolls are one of my favorite foods ever. They are, as their name suggests, the perfect summer food. Plus, they’re filling and quite pretty to look at! ;-) The summer rolls were served with a homemade spicy peanut sauce.

Soba Noodle Salad

 

The soba noodle salad is simple yet flavorful salad that’s perfect for parties where you guests may or may not have eaten dinner before coming. Although this particular party was a cocktail party, and I didn’t plan to have a full dinner spread, I knew that some of my guests may not have had dinner before arriving since the party kicked off at 7pm. Soba noodles are quite filling, and since the noodles are served cold, it’s an easy dish to throw together just minutes before guests arrive.

Sweet Sesame MeatballsMeatballs are a perfect bite-sized appetizer for parties, but they’re not too exciting. So I added some delicious peanut and soy sauce based sauce, sprinkle some sesame seeds on it them, and voila! They’re sweet and savory and sure to be a crowd-pleaser!

After a fun two hours at our place, we ventured out to Perfl, a local cocktail performance bar. If you’re in Seoul and would like to see some impressive bottle tossing and twirling, flaming shots, and bar tricks, definitely check this place out! They regularly perform around 10pm (sometimes later), and the staff is amazing.

I spent the day after our cocktail party in full-on recovery mode, but a wasted Sunday was well worth the previous evening’s fun.

P.S. Stay tuned for recipes for all the edible goodies from the party!

 

 

 

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