Apartment Gardening in Korea: Starting My Join

A couple of years ago, my husband and I were fortunate to finally get out of living in one-room apartments which is pretty standard in South Korea. Although we had more space, I still felt like I was missing something. In our last one room, we got three small plants: a stuckyii, a mother-in-law’s tongue, and a peace lily. They were just the beginning of something.

After we moved, we had two verandas in our apartment. The space was perfect for putting containers out on and growing more plants, so that’s what I did. By our bedroom, a wall of flowering plants bring me happiness to look at every morning. As the containers amassed, more plant babies found their way into the house as well. Now, we have over a dozen different varieties of plants in our place.

The latest spoils from a trip to the farmers market.

Many Korean apartments have indoor verandas as well as outdoor verandas. The outdoor ones are essentially long balconies- but not where you can step out on. The ones in our apartment are basically built in flower beds. The previous owners had filled it with some sort of sand and rocks, so it was impossible to plant directly. Instead we covered it with leftover wood tiles and use it for containers.

The indoor veranda is right off the living room and is separated by sliding glass doors. This part of the house is not heated with 온돌 (ondol, Korean floor heating system) and acts as a second layer of insulated protection against the cruel Korean winters. What is out here is a bookshelf, my reading nook, and a shelving unit where I have a lot of small terracotta pots. This is where I started an herb garden last year. Because the space isn’t heated in the winter, it works well for annual herbs. Last year was my first year with the herb garden and it was so fun to go out there every morning to water, check on them, and cut fresh herbs when I cooked.

This year, and what made me want to start blogging about it, is my gardening is about to blossom (#sorrynotsorry). I am going to start container gardening.

I started researching information the last couple of weeks and it’s safe to say that I am overwhelmed.  I am having to learn things in English, find the words in Korean, then look for these things on the Korean interwebs where I inevitably find more words I haven’t seen before,  back to the translator, and then finally things make sense…but not much. However! That’s why I wanted to document what I learn here. This way, while I learn, maybe others can learn as well.

Last night we ordered the containers and other supplies to get started. When they come and things get started, I’ll be sure to update the page.


Korean Wifehacks | Affordable International Shipping

Living abroad can be tough in and of itself. And it can be more difficult to get the things from home or abroad that make living in another country just a little easier. For me, those are things like clothing that actually fit properly or tech (electronics are ridiculously expensive in Korea). Most online resellers will happily ship to you for over 50 dollars in addition to your order. How nice of them, right?

Even if you are willing to pay that shipping fee, you still have to take into consideration the customs value limitation which is at 200USD. Don’t plan on spending that much? Keep in mind that this includes the shipping fee in the value.

Image Source: https://fbcdn-profile-a.akamaihd.net/hprofile-ak-xaf1/v/t1.0-1/c1.15.242.242/s160x160/10440207_893617130654038_7308403731920002888_n.jpg?oh=6b2df5bc772152cec12cc8e6d8db106e&oe=5648721E&__gda__=1447551256_6c5831be17d32c3ffa6852c5f267a1c9
Image Source: https://fbcdn-profile-a.akamaihd.net/hprofile-ak-xaf1/v/t1.0-1/c1.15.242.242/s160x160/10440207_893617130654038_7308403731920002888_n.jpg?oh=6b2df5bc772152cec12cc8e6d8db106e&oe=5648721E&__gda__=1447551256_6c5831be17d32c3ffa6852c5f267a1c9

So a way that I avoid putting the hurt on my wallet is to use reputable third-party couriers. No, not DHL or Fed-Ex. While they are available in Korea, they charge just as much as national mail services. I am talking specifically about two: Ship2Korea (English service available) and MallTail (Korean service only).

Both of these websites allow you to ship to an address in the US (you can pick between several locations depending on which is closer to the warehouse it is shipping out of as well as taxes charged to that state). Just enter the address provided by the company as your shipping address at checkout.

How this works is that you fill out the form with the courier, telling them the details of what to expect in the mail for you. Once it all arrives, you pay their shipping and handling fee, and just wait for it to come to you. They combine the items into one box for easier and quicker shipping, and it’s just generally awesome. There is tracking for the packages so you know when it will come.

You can also get the most out of this by taking advantage of free shipping from online retailers like Amazon, Modcloth, etc. So wait until you can get their free shipping and make orders at one time to get a bigger bang for your buck.

Korean Lifehacks | Kakao

Before I go on introducing all of the AMAZING ways to use Kakao, my pictures will be in Korean. I do not apologize for this for two reasons which are: 1. if you live in Korea you should at least be able to read 한글 /hangeul/ (the written language) out of the most minute level of respect for your host country, and 2. it is a great way to immerse yourself more into the language.

What is Kakao?

Kakao is a messenger that most Koreans use as well as most foreigners who come here. I have even had my family back home install and we use it to talk to each other. It’s a great way to get awesome technological perks without selling your soul to Apple (go, Team Android!). Just what all can it do, though? Well, that’s what we are here to learn.

Getting StartedMy Profile

When you get started with Kakao, it’s helpful to set up an account. All you need to do is input your email and a password then set up an I.D. That I.D. will be used so others can search you. If you do not want others to be able to search you, you can disable others finding you.


Also, in Korea at least, when you enter someone’s contact details like their phone number into your phone, Kakao will put them in your contacts.

Communication Tool

Regular Chat


Instant Messenger

In a world where people no longer send SMS (text messages) and their phones have more data than minutes, Kakao allows you optimal ways to communicate. You can message individuals or create groups. Apart from simple messaging, though, there’s a lot more you can do.



What can you share, you ask? The better question is what can you not share. Check out the photos below to see what you can share with people inside your message windows.Chat Extras

Photos, (short) videos, voice messages, contact details, your current location, or money are all the things you can send.

Voice and Video Talk
You can also use “VoiceTalk” to call people within the application or “FaceTalk” to video chat. This uses data of course and I recommend being on a good WiFi connection to do it.




The feature I learned most recently about and want to scream from the rooftops if the button labeled “지도” (maps). You can drop a pin of your location to a friend and wait for them to find you. Brilliant stuff, we have here.






Use hashtags to check information quickly or inputting information quickly to friends.




Group Chat Options


Group Messages 
I manage a book club in my area and with that, comes a few features in addition to the ones listed above. Groups messages give the benefit of gathering opinions, dispersing information, setting up meetings, or getting votes VERY easily.

Customize Your Group Chat to Help Keep Visually Separated:


Or manage your group:Group Chat


Group Poll

Even have it put directly into your Google Calender.

Group Schedule 2

Scheduling Events

Group Schedule


Entertainment ToolOther Menu

As you can see from the picture, Kakao has a lot of ways to entertain yourself, ranging from games to videos. There are also shortcuts to webtoons.






Businesses or other entities also use Kakao to keep customers and/or followers updated with current information or sales! This is done with Kakao’s “PlusFriend” (프러스친구). Love to keep myself updated from my favorite stores:







You can also use the “channel” page to look up current news.



Living Tool

kakao taxi

I would be lying if I said I had used any of these features, but I know others who have and it is very convenient. The only one I will mention here that is gaining popularity is “KakaoTaxi (separate downloadable app).

Using Kakao Taxi you can actually call a taxi to where you are and they will kakao taxi 2head your way. Does it get any better than this?



Living in Korea Lifehacks

Most people end up on this blog looking for tips on how to study Korean or obtaining/renewing a visa. I can only review my visa once a year with little changing and I have lost a lot of steam on my Korean studies.

But what I have been successful at lately is just living in Korea. Unfortunately, I don’t explore much, but from living with my Korean husband or simply just living in the country, I have come to learn some lifehacks for making it all easier. I hope this will become a regular series on this blog because the main purpose I have for keeping it is helping others with information I find useful.

My next post will be to introduce how to use Kakao, the preferred- and with good reason- messenger in Korea.


Trip to Kansai, Japan: Kyoto

This is the final installment in our Kansai trip adventure! We visited Kyoto in the middle of the week for a half day before spending the last day and a half there. Unfortunately, we saw that a typhoon was headed straight to Kansai so the last day we couldn’t do anything but visit the underground shops by the station or the connected department store.

Things to Do

On our half day, however, we did go to Kiyumizudera. Be warned the temple closes at 6:00 so get there before, rent a kimono along the street close to the hill you walk up, and really enjoy the stroll through the streets. Here are some photos of the temple:
C360_2015-07-14-17-19-08-703 C360_2015-07-14-17-36-05-831 C360_2015-07-14-17-32-09-338 C360_2015-07-14-17-22-33-354C360_2015-07-14-17-34-57-828

Gion District
We also took a stroll through the Gion district. This is where the heart of the tradition in the area lies. Great souvenir shops and if you are lucky you will be able to catch a geisha or maiko walking around.
C360_2015-07-14-16-45-37-724C360_2015-07-14-16-32-39-170 C360_2015-07-14-16-39-31-782C360_2015-07-14-16-49-08-075


Since we were stuck inside for the most part, we did get a chance to eat some real Kyoto style food.

  1. Torisanwa (Oya ko donburi)
    Roughly translated as “Parent and child” donburi, this is chicken cooked in a light sauce and half cooked eggs. It is definitely worth the try and so delicious if you get a chance to try it.C360_2015-07-17-18-24-13-234This place was located in the basement level of the main station. You have to walk through the department store grocery stands.
  2. Katzukura (Kyoto Skygarden Donkatsu)
    Located near the top of the Sky Garden in Kyoto Station is another famous fried pork cutlet chain. This one is special because they give you sesame seeds in a mortar and pestle. You grind them up and then add one of the two sauces. Be warned, the one on the far less is a honey citron dressing…for the cabbage, not the pork cutlet.C360_2015-07-18-11-53-26-953It was good but we can find things cheaper and just as good at home in Korea. But if you’re on vacation and wanting to try it, here it is! Also, cabbage is bottomless. You can ask for more.
  3. Beef-katsu
    This one was…interesting. After the Kobe beef experience, DH’s brother saw this place online and wanted us to try it, so we did. This is beef tonkatsu except instead of pork it’s beef and instead of regular beef it was aged beef. At this place the rice and salad is endless, so you can fill up on it.

    C360_2015-07-17-12-47-50-233However, this was not my favorite thing to eat on this trip. The beef was so chewy, but like all things on vacation it is worth doing once just to say that you did.

Well! Thanks for visiting my blog and reading about our trip to Japan. We were very excited since it was our first trip abroad as a married couple. It was so nice and refreshing. A final reflection on this trip. Before you go, make a rough itinerary before you go and be flexible. It will really make the trip less stressful.

Have fun and happy travels!!

Trip to Kansai, Japan: Kobe and Nara (Part 2 – Food)

Our trip to Kobe was seriously all about the food. Nara was more about the culture, but they did have some of the softest, most delicious mochi (rice cakes) that I have EVER had.


  1. Kobe Beef
    Kobe beef is famous all over the world. I remember signs growing up at fancy restaurants boosting to serve this coveted cow, but have also read it was all a farce. Either way, I never tried it before to know if hundreds were really duped or not. As for myself, I ate it here and I… just words fail me.We went to this place and it was phe-no-me-nal!
    C360_2015-07-15-15-06-14-912Just like everywhere else in the world that has tourists, there will be some who just say something that people who don’t know better will believe. Here’s my bit of advice. Look for this award in the restaurant:
    C360_2015-07-15-13-21-29-092This means that it is legit Kobe beef. DH and I went to eat lunch because it was a lot less expensive than dinner in the same restaurants. Here is the lunch menu:
    C360_2015-07-15-13-53-01-974 C360_2015-07-15-13-53-10-318Does that say 10,000 Yen (approx. 100 USD) for Kobe beef!? Like I said… we opted for lunch because it was less expensive. We also ordered an S Lunch as well for typical wakyu (Japanese style beef) to compare:C360_2015-07-15-13-49-15-186“S Lunch Menu” versus “Kobe Beef Lunch”
    The only real difference is any meat that is set in front of you, but DH and I split everything, I even nicely let him eat half of my Kobe beef.

    C360_2015-07-15-13-59-16-136Kobe beef:
    C360_2015-07-15-13-59-07-684The long, thin one is the Kobe:

    C360_2015-07-15-14-17-42-741Aside from the beef, the menus for both meals are essentially the same. Also, real hibachi cooking!
    C360_2015-07-15-14-08-22-722 C360_2015-07-15-14-13-04-801 C360_2015-07-15-14-12-46-234 C360_2015-07-15-14-07-59-366 C360_2015-07-15-14-22-30-003 C360_2015-07-15-14-24-08-991 C360_2015-07-15-14-47-11-051 C360_2015-07-15-14-52-16-675Butter in beef form is the best way to describe the wonder that is Kobe beef. It was worth the 100 buck price tag for the experience in my opinion.



  2. Akashiyaki (a.k.a. the original Takoyaki, or egg takoyaki)
    After walking a bit about Chinatown, we were not hungry at all and so unfortunately we didn’t eat any of the interesting Chinese street food that was sprinkles every dozen feet or so away from each other, we went to a small place that serves a special kind of takoyaki.

    C360_2015-07-15-17-18-13-337DH did not do his research enough because as soon as I ate it I asked if this was just egg with a piece of octopus in it. He checked online and said, “Yep.” Despite this, it was good. I just can’t stomach a lot of egg at one time so he had to eat it alone.


  1. Dango
    I saw a review of a dango restaurant in Seoul a few months ago and had always wanted to try. Basically, dango are skewered, grilled mochi (rice cakes) in a glaze.
    C360_2015-07-14-12-47-02-411From my guess the glaze was soy sauce and a bit of mirin, maybe a smidgen of sugar so it thickens up. I would have preferred some honey instead, but it was great none-the-less. Definitely something I plan to recreate at home.
  2. Cold Udon
    This was a restaurant with high reviews on the Japanese “Yelp” app that my husband was using. I do not really like udon, never have and probably never will, but we went here anyways. (Spouses make sacrifices because they love each other, right?)
    C360_2015-07-14-14-23-11-347There were hot and cold options of just about everything. This was eaten like soba, where you dip your noodles in the broth. Mine was a rich soy bean and pork broth. Not bad. Made me wish I liked udon more.
  3. Mochi 
    These guys are famous. If you are walking to (or from) Todaijidera and you hear men grunting like they are in a display of martial arts intermitten with smacking sounds, you are in for a treat. Look for the crowd and head there. This is where they are making up some nom-tastic green tea mochi.
    C360_2015-07-14-14-02-40-387Get them while they are fresh and it will be the softest piece of mochi you have ever experienced.
    C360_2015-07-14-14-03-40-887 C360_2015-07-14-14-04-22-966


Trip to Kansai, Japan: Kobe and Nara (Part 1 – Things to Do)

The second leg of our journey was spent on a couple of half day trips. From our home base of Osaka we went to Kobe and Nara. I am putting them together into one post because they aren’t quite as extensive trips as Osaka.


Kobe is world renown for its beef, but it is also a cute city to visit for a casual day. It was a great reprieve from the busy schedule of the first two days we had in Japan. I will talk about the glory that is Kobe beef in a separate post, but here are the things we did in Kobe.

  1. Chinatown
    C360_2015-07-15-16-33-29-137Located in the center of the city, we visited Chinatown after eating lunch, which wasn’t necessary. There are so many places to eat here that it would make for a better snack-and-go place with dinner being dedicated to the beef. Since it is smaller than expected, we traversed the whole place within an hour and quickly moved on. Here is a map:
    And some photos I snapped along the way:C360_2015-07-15-16-45-51-049
  2. Starbucks House
    Moving on from Chinatown, we walked over to the Starbucks that is in an old Western-styled house. It was nice and a refreshing place to go with all the hot humidity.


Nara was more my style which its rich history and cultural attractions. We spent the entire day here and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

  1. Deer Park
    When you get off the station at Nara and surface from the subway it is no exaggeration to say one of the first things you will see are deer. They are EVERYWHERE. Inside the park, outside the park, in the temple, simply everywhere. The town itself looks so small, it made me wonder if there weren’t more deer than people in this town.
    C360_2015-07-14-11-27-01-517 C360_2015-07-14-11-01-32-627 C360_2015-07-14-11-01-40-868
    You can buy little biscuits to feed them, but these little guys do come with a word of warning or two. Apparently deer are vicious and should not be trusted despite their cute exterior.C360_2015-07-14-11-06-47-769
  2. Todaijidera (Todaiji Temple)
    Now we come to what I really enjoy: temples. As I mentioned in a previous post, Japan was a Shinto religious culture before Buddhism was introduced and instead of simply replacing them, the country merged elements together. So while”dera” refers to a Buddhist temple in Japanese, and “jinja” refers to a Shinto one, you will see elements of both on your way up to see Todaijidera.
    C360_2015-07-14-11-42-21-115 C360_2015-07-14-11-51-35-905 C360_2015-07-14-11-54-54-591 C360_2015-07-14-11-57-31-980 C360_2015-07-14-12-05-50-736Once inside the temple, you will see a pillar with a small hole in it. It is said that if you go through this hole then your wish will come true.
    C360_2015-07-14-12-07-32-458Depending on how you track to and fro the temple, you will come to quite a few other shrines and pagoda along the way:
    C360_2015-07-14-13-55-52-603 C360_2015-07-14-13-15-27-908 C360_2015-07-14-13-20-08-596 C360_2015-07-14-13-28-14-644