Time for Tea? Maybe.

I’m not sure about the rest of you out there, but I adore coffee. You can find me drinking a cup (at least) most days of the week. Sometimes (usually work days) I will drink two. But, it’s not really the coffee that I love to drink, but rather the stuff I get after adding about a tablespoon of sugar and a quarter cup of milk. This is bad (especially the sugar part) for me, I know this. But, through the years, I’ve acquired a slight dependency. If I go too long (more than a day) without the wonderful java, I am nursing a migraine that lasts ridiculously long. As I write this, I am sipping down a venti caramel macchiato. Don’t worry, it’s low-fat (Starbucks does low-fat, not fat-free, but a lot of chains here in Seoul don’t even offer that option!).

Insadong Starbucks

But, I also realize that I need to make a change, and tea, in all is antioxidant richness, will be that change.

Plus, hello, I am in ASIA, the land of tea! I should adapt, if not here, then it’s NEVER going to happen. I don’t want to give up coffee completely, it’s good for my mornings and I just bought a coffee maker that I love. But, I think a little insertion of tea will do me a world of good. While reading though iVillage’s list of top ten health benefits of tea, I decided to really test my will power. Because, I don’t actually like tea. And I can tell you that it has to do with the fact that my grandmother made great sun tea, and since she’s passed (in 1989) I haven’t wanted tea; but that’s probably crap. She put a TON of sugar in our tea and THAT’S probably the reason I loved it so much… it tasted like kool-aid. And kids love kool-aid.

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to get healthier. I think this is a good way of going about that.

This week, too, I am giving up bread (sad) for passover. I probably eat way too much bread as it is… but it’s SO good! Damn you Paris Baguette!

Bread and Jam

In my last care package from home, I received about a dozen packets of active dry yeast. Until yesterday, I had been hesitant to attempt making a bread recipe requiring yeast, but we can all rest easily now… mission accomplished.

I do enjoy baking. As you know, I have made several things – cookies, breads, ect. A while back, I came across this recipe which called for sour cream. We have sour cream here… granted, it’s a little more tart than American sour cream (I think the Costco imports this brand from somewhere like Sweden or Germany or something), but in a fix, it does the job. Yes, a dollop on those carne adovada burritos works just fine, actually.

So, last night, after spending the later part of the morning and early afternoon girly shopping with a friend from work (thank you Grace, for translating!!), and recouping my poor feet, I set Jason and I to work.

Using one of the cool baking thermometers his folks sent me, I made sure the water for the yeast was just right. Poured in the yeast and fed it some sugar. Jason got to mix the sour cream and dry ingredients while we waiting the requisite 10 minutes for the yeast to grow (they grow, right?).

Then I poured the yeast mixture into the flour mixture and boy, that was fun. I had to knead the dough for TEN minutes… it was slimy and gross and we ended up adding, I would wager, about two more cups of flour before it was the right consistency.

Let rise for 1 hour.

Punch down dough and knead for an additional five minutes. Form into the shape of a loaf and place in bread pan for 45 more minute to rise even more. Ok, we did that. This is what we got:

The finished product
Nom Nom
Too hot, but too good to resist
Cooked Inside
Enjoying fresh bread

Jason opted for a slice with butter, while I spread on the jam I made using this recipe. Sooo good!

Badmiton and a Marathon

Last weekend, Jason and I decided to get out and enjoy some fresh air. By this, we took ourselves down a few blocks from the apartment to a set of tennis courts we had discovered a while back. When we first found them, we thought “hey, great site for some badminton” so after we got around to buying rackets and shuttlecocks (yes, I know – horrible name), we eventually got around to getting out to play.

In all honesty, I’m a tennis girl, and I have been known to dabble in racket ball on occasion. I don’t think I had played badminton since I was maybe ten. Jason, on the other hand, is actually a decent player (albeit a little rusty after not having played in several month). So, after phone calls to parents and getting our selves ready, we embarked on our little excursion to the courts.

We tend to get places in round about ways; our apartment isn’t exactly on an artery street. On this day, as we approach the main road along which we’ll get to the courts, we see blockade. There are barricades and cute little policemen in puffy State issue police jackets standing at attention. They are the army that keeps ambitious and aggressive Korean drivers (we are in Korea after all) from plowing into thousands (maybe tens of thousands) of marathoners.

It was amazing to see so many runners, and while I do live in a huge city, seeing that many people, is a little awe-inspiring. Many of you know, I did my small share of marathoning (3 half’s in a year and a half), and seeing all these people running, really touched a nerve. A good nerve… The link for the event is here.

Now, I’m not going to say that I am vowing to get back into my running (I have a few pounds to lose before I attempt anything drastic like Sunday morning 8-milers) but I think it’s gotten me thinking more and more about my health. So I will vow to take my health much more seriously and strive to influence Jason to the same end.

Back to our game of badmiton… we sucked, pretty heinously. But we had fun and were good and sore the next day. Our main problem was the wind and the sun, when we got a good volley going, either Jason would be blinded by the sun in his eyes, or the wind would blow the shuttlecock back at me and after trying to get it over the net two more times, I just let it go. We played for MAYBE 30 minutes (neither of us had a clock) and made our way back toward the apartment.

Actually, upon finding the marathon blocking our way across the street, we attempted to get an early lunch from the kimchi jigae place nearby. At 11:15, they were not open. But, after walking to the underpass further down the main street and getting our game on, and then returning via the same route, the restaurant was open and an excellent lunch of kimchi jigae was enjoyed by all. Who cares that we were sweaty and smelly from playing, we didn’t. There were enough elite athletes about, that it didn’t really matter.

So, this weekend, we hope to get out and play again; although we’re hitting up the über zoo and I will actually get to see dolphins for the first time in real life. I’m excited!

The End Is Near

Not to sound too foreboding, but I’m just talking about my credit card debt. Nothing more, nothing less.

Like so many before and after me, I was a “victim” of the credit card. In college, where I got my very first credit card (Discover if you must know), I felt the freedom that credit offers, dangling it deceptively in front of poor students in their first experiences away from home. Not that I was very far from home, I went to the University of New Mexico… a commuter college if anything.

Now, being brought up in a less than wealthy home, I did (and still do) want things I didn’t have. But work-study doesn’t really provide for most of those things like “free money” ie the credit card. 0% introductory interest rates ment I didn’t need to actually pay my bill for quite some time. For other reasons as well, I got in a bit over my head a couple of times, only to find that I needed to use either part of my school loans (not to be repaid until much, much later) or when I did get to work for more than 15 hours a week and made more than $300 a month I needed to use most, if not ALL, of that money to go toward my bill to really hack away at the balance. This strategy worked best when I was working full-time, while I was transitioning for the one semester between getting my master’s and going back for my second BA.

BUT, all of a sudden I am working full-time on more of a regular basis. No more spring break, summer’s off for this girl. I put in my 40+ hours and take home a decent amount for my first real job. All the more incentive to pay off those pesky credit cards.

I had three. The Discover, a MasterCard, and a Visa. After 10 years, I closed the Discover card when I paid it off in January. That felt GREAT. My other two cards, having much lower interest rates than the Discover, have been hacked away at less viciously. I pay half on the higher one (19%) and maybe $50 more than the minimum payment on the lower one (11%). This month, with the gloriousness that was my US tax return, I will be paying half toward both of those cards.

Why not pay them both off? Well, I live in Korea and if you have ever lived in Korea, you know that bedrooms don’t come with closets, apartments don’t come with carpets. So, Jason and I are going to invest a little more in our comfort this month than in months past and get ourselves two armoires and an area rug. Along with some other, choice items, we’re looking to spend a fairly decent sized chunk of this months pay checks.

This is exciting. And I can even see the end of the credit card tunnel. Two of the three credit cards are canceled already, and I am keeping one open for the credit score. When Jason and I move back, we will need some credit to qualify for a mortgage. What is harder to see the end of… the student loan tunnel. That will take a while.