Drink + Eat Like a Modern Day Wildwoman: Probiotic Superbrews + Eats

This Modern Day Wildwoman gets her buzz on via fermented beverages.

Of the probiotic and cultured type, naturally.

These probiotic powerhouses burst forth a wealth of health benefits such as aiding detoxification, tipping our bodies towards acid/alkaline balance, and containing beneficial bacteria which our enhance our digestion and increase general feelings of well-being.

You may have heard of probiotic brews. Kombucha and kefir drinks are standard at health food stores around the Unites States, abroad, and now even at certain chain grocers (at least here in progressive California). If you haven’t noticed a special brew in the cold case, you’ve certainly tried, and undoubtedly benefitted from, a probiotic beverage or food unknowingly while dining. Perhaps a Japanese Miso soup, or Korean Kimchi has touched your lips?

You could say my fermentation exploration started in college when I used ‘mealpoints’ at UC San Diego’s Earl’s Place, the on-campus co-op, to buy my first kombucha. To my co-ed delight, ‘bucha left me slightly buzzed in between cram sessions at Geisel Library

English: Geisel Library, UCSD

Geisel Library, UCSD
Named after a writer named Geisel, AKA Dr. Seuss!
(Wikipedia)

But really, this ride began with kimchi, the fermented spicy cabbage dish for which South Korea is famous.

Indeed it did…and in the land of Kimchi, nonetheless.

Kimchi

Kimchi (korea.net)

In 2010, I embarked on a one-year journey to South Korea, adding ‘English as a Second Language Kindergarten Teacher’ to my already…um…varied? exciting? ADD?… resume.

Admin at a Malibu holistic wellness center, beach camp counselor, editorial, PR, television, and talent agency intern, model, actor, fine dining hostess…preschool teacher to cute Korean kiddos all before the age of 24? Okay!

I’d never felt so healthy as I did that year. On top of daily kimchi-munching, I began brewing kombucha, a fermented tea, nurturing my first batches from my lil’ apartment with no windows (aka the Yoga Cocoon). The brewlove was inspired by Aimee, a free-spirit and dear friend who now organizes Project Hope Art in Haiti.

One sticky July afternoon, a special circle of chingus, or friends in Korean, gathered at Aimee’s community garden spot at the edge of Seoul for her going-away party.

The Garden Party July 2010

The Garden Party
July 2010

‘Who’s to be handed down the brew?’ was a hot question on our well-stocked table full of every vegetable you could think of: lettuce leaves, radishes, cabbage, seaweed, fresh and kimchi’d alike, and magguli (rice wine, another fermentation) -filled table. (Thank you, Seoul Community Garden ajjimas and ajjashis, or Korean elder folk, for providing such abundance in our chingu’s honor).

‘Not too fret’, answered Aimee. One chingu would receive the master brew and mushroom. From that master mushroom, if we kept it well fed with black tea and sugar, top layers may be ripped off and shared with friends who could then start their own brew. The rest of the afternoon is a bit blurry with much soju, magguli, and ukulele sing-alongs flowing. A few days later, Aimee sent us future brewmasters a link via facebook with precise brewing instructions. Although Aimee left only a month later, her legacy lived on as the rest of us chingus who were sticking around for a while carried on the kombucha batch and delved deeper into additional fermentation methods.

We got so into the craft of fermentation that we held fermentation tasting parties with blind-taste contests. Only a week after my own departure, a “Fermentation Celebration” was held, organized by the aforementioned chingus, where all thing fermented were celebrated by us foreigners…yogurt, kefir, kombucha, Caucasian attempts at alcohol and kimchi-making, cheese, you name it.

In my humble, but well-read and personally tested, Beach Girl Abroad and Modern Day Wildwoman opinion, fermented foods and drinks absolutely contribute to a healthy body and a happy state of mind. Did you know most of our serotonin, the body’s ‘happy hormone’, is produced in our gut, not our brain? With the help of beneficial bacteria in our tummies, our bodies produce a healthy dose of serotonin.

 

Peace, love, namaste, happiness!

Beach Girl Abroad 

Deep Thought of the Day: Music

“Music speaks what cannot be expressed, soothes the mind and gives it a rest, heals the heart and makes it whole, flows from heaven to the soul”

-Unknown

My #1 go-to when my outlook begins turning a’funky?

Playing music that brings me back to a happy place and time.

Today, watching a video from 2011 of my dear class of South Korean kindergartners perform James Taylor’s How Sweet it is to be Loved by You, shook the funk right off. One of my favorite songs by a favorite artist, topped with 20 little booty-shaking bundles of joy that all hold a special place in my heart.

Enjoy! And remember, choose music, not funk.

my cooking…a food post…homesick for the USA…culture shock…

okay, it’s cold…i’m spending lots of time indoors during this sub-zero South Korean wintertime…and i feel like blogging my thoughts…a lot…this week.

i lost interest in tofu about 2 months ago.

gone are the days i was able to enjoy a meal of tofu and veggies for less than $3 in korea.  i’d rather starve at this point.

i’m not a big fan of kimchi at the moment (i’m convinced it rots ur pearly whites), and i don’t even see white rice (so i’ve been trained not to eat ‘white empty calories’ from an early age).  it’s like it’s invisible to me.

sushi, my favorite food since i was 6 years old, has no appeal anymore (and i haven’t even touched the stuff since california, but i think korea’s proximity to japan may have something to do with it).

i just went to thailand for 11 days, and only ate thai food once.  the rest of the time i ordered salads with fresh veg, fruit, and cheese.

indian food is suddenly a craving like never before. maybe it’s the cold weather.

peanut butter, celery, apples, and other fruit has been a mainstay dinner lately.

i’ve spent $12 on feta just this week.  and i’m not talking a big block, but 2 measly jars of the stuff soaked in oil (ill post a pic one of these days).

and no, i’m not pregnant.  (this is the year of single-ness, remember?)

but i just now came to the realization that i can’t /forgot how to cook.

the only thing i make well (these days) is
1) runny eggs, sometimes adding in fresh veg and salt.  sometimes a little curry seasoning or cinnamon if im feeling really wild.
2) salads.  chopped up lettuce + fresh/dried fruit + canned beans + canned tuna/chicken (used to add sauteed or plain tofu).  avocado will be my long lost friend in california.  t-6weeks till avocado and reasonably priced feta!

everything else is a mishmosh of crap.  or one vegetable, such as the kabocha squash, that steams really well.

i don’t know how to grill.

i haven’t used an oven in a year…how do you make cookies again?

i’ve never used a food processor.

maybe this is the apartment with no windows + 1 electric hotplate talking.  but man, i don’t know if i remember how to cook.  i think i used to enjoy that.  once upon a time.  i did make pumpkin pies, i do make a mean cranberry sauce, i have made a mean salmon, medium rare.  what has happened?!

maybe i should put “cooking classes” on the to do list for california lady of leisure time.
that is, if i can find the time since i’ll be maximizing the outdoor time like no other!  homegirl is in serious need of vitamin d….

Busy busy busy


July has been a busy month! Been travelling just about every weekend, and there’s been dinner, drinks, art and/or music to be had just about every weeknight. Haven’t had much time to blog about all the adventuring, which is sorta a shame because when I finally do get to writing, I won’t have the experiences fresh in my head. Oh well, there is only so much you can pack into a day, and when it’s gorgeous outside, with my kinda hot humid weather, I’m not too keen on holin’ up in front of the computer screen…

I have, however, been taking loads and loads of pictures, which I’m so excited to go through and share. Good memories…amazing people…beautiful locations. So much more to come, and so much to write and reflect on. I’m really enjoying Korea right now.
Kimchi kisses to whoever reads this :*
 

Where’s Buddha? Bongeunsa Temple Exploring

Visited Bongeunsa Temple in the center of Gangnam, Seoul after school last week. My new goal is to explore more after work. I’ve become used to the job and am not nearly as tired as I was at first. In the beginning, teaching kindergarten was so exhausting that I barely had enough energy to go to dinner after work!

The reason I wanted to teach abroad was to travel and explore, so duh…the only answer is to get out and do it! I dragged along 3 friends and we had a great time wandering and taking pictures.
The Buddha at Bongeunsa is supposedly the tallest in Korea. I was in awe and took a seat to meditate for a minute on the beautiful marble floor in front of Buddha. When I took off my shoes and stepped on the marble, I was delighted to find it was warm! Ondol marble floor outdoors in front of Buddha….taking a mental note of that one. This will definitely be one of my top spots to come back and visit during this year in Seoul.
Check out how this beautiful temple is situated right in the middle of crazy urban development (see skyscrapers in the background). Just when I thought again that Korea had lost it’s nature, well it smacks me straight in the face that they do in fact have it right…nature and peace right in the middle of a crazy busy city!

Spa Girl Abroad: Onyang Hot Springs

Onyang Hot Springs South Korea

I’ve been feeling the pull to venture out for a solo daytrip for a couple weeks now…and what could be better than a day at the hot springs after dancing, singing, playing, “heavy-weight lifting” with 4 year olds all week???

So I ventured off in the AM, not quite settled on which hot spring to go to…I just headed out to Seoul Express Bus Terminal and figured I would wing it.
At the suggestion of my “Korea Sparkling” guidebook (a freebie I picked up at a tourist office), it was between Icheon Hot Springs and Onyang…both a little over an hour outside Seoul.
I asked the lady at the ticket window, “which better, Onyang or Icheon?”
She replies, “Onyang!”…and so I hopped on the 10:10am bus.
I was pretty excited to be off doing something on my own, and somehow got the idea that I was going to some rural area. I was a lot disappointed to see that Onyang looks a lot like…well..parts of Seoul! :/
Anyways, the actual Onyang Hot Springs are located inside the Onyang Hot Springs Hotel. I paid 5,500 won to get in, was handed towels and locker key, and in traditional Korean bathhouse style, stripped down to my birthday suit! The layout of the hotsprings is similar to any Korean bathhouse or jjimjilbang, with several baths of different temperatures and wet/dry saunas.
Onyang is the oldest hot spring in Korea, and is supposedly a tourist hotspot. However, I was the only Westerner there and could feel quite a few stares, but I just looked these ladies in the eyes and gave ’em a big smile that said, “don’t worry about me, I’ve done this Korean spa thing before”…
I beelined for the outdoor pool, where the sun was shining and I was thinking, “suntan suntan suntan”. Ahhhh the power of a little sun. I lazed in the pool for a while, then layed out on the ground around the hot spring pool. It felt so good to just allow the healing waters and sunlight do their magic. At one point, a Korean lady offered me her spot in the shade, which I politely declined. It’s so funny how they want to be whiter and us Westerners want to be darker.
My favorite part about the outdoor pool was what I want to call “massage waterfalls”. These are amazing! It was almost as good as getting a deep tissue massage. You just stand in the pool, underneath the waterfalls, and direct the water towards your shoulders, neck, back, tight hammies, anything. This week in particular, my stress had manifested itself in my neck. Fun. Been getting acupuncture all week for it. And I was able to get lots of those kinks out with the waterfall massage.
After a few hours at the springs, I hopped on another bus back to Seoul. Slept like a baby the whole ride home.

Lotus Lantern Festival, Seoul, South Korea

Okay, I officially am having a wonderful time here in Seoul!

The weather is now sundress worthy, I’ve met some amazing people, and am happy as a clam.

This past Sunday was the Lotus Lantern Festival in Insadong. Insadong and the surrounding area of Jongno is what I’d call the cultural mecca of Seoul. Alongside skyscrapers are beautiful old Buddhist temples and shrines, which were decorated with beautiful lanterns during the weeks leading to the festival. The festival is held in honor of Buddha’s Birthday every year.

Seeking shade underneath countless paper lanterns. If you look closely enough, you can see the paper prayers hung from the bottom for the worshipper’s ancestors and family.

photos courtesy:B O’rourke

Us girls posing for a pic with the lanterns we made ourselves–gotta love crafting!

Temple. Yes, we actually went in and sat in awe. I plan to go visit for Sunday services simply for the peace I felt here.

 

The sheer bliss of joining in the Lotus Lantern Parade~TK and I danced to the amazing music alongside the parade-ers. It was pure bliss.

Lantern collecting and dancing to the beats of Korean marching bands.

photos courtesy: B. O’Rourke and A. Brady (Thanks!)

 

Getting a Feel for Things in Seoul

 It SNOWED this week!! This is the field next to my school…A nice respite from the rest of Seoul which consists of lots and lots of CEMENT.

Things are going good here. At first I thought the commute to school would be awful…45 minutes and 3 bus/subway transfers…but there are a few positives to this..

1. Exercise…

45 minutes of moving, which includes stairwalking, hustling to and from school…umm that is an hour and a half of moving per day give or take. No gym membership necessary! Of course, it would be easy to be lazy and just take the escalator but why not take advantage? Seoul has a million stairs.

2. Express Bus Terminal

Seoul’s main hub of transportation. Everyday, I pass through express bus terminal where there are TONS of vendors for clothes, flowers, shoes, boots, food…insane. I bought a cute little sweater dress for $15. After work I wandered around and couldn’t even walk long enough to reach the end of it. Sooooo much to see and do. overwhelming.

 I also had my health check up…where they took a chest xray, 3 vials of blood, and pee. so i guess i’ll find out if anything is wrong with me! These are the robes they put us in…wonder how many people wore this that day???

After the health check up at Seoul Medical Center, three of us new teachers ended up at the COEX…an enormous maze of a mall. Koreans LOVE their shopping.

Oh and the reason I’m here…the J-O-B….

My kids are 3.5 to 4 years old and love to sing in English. It’s nice to have a happy job. The kids are so young and are at that age where they don’t get embarrassed yet of being silly.  They’re just pure love. 

The adjustment to city life is…interesting. Sometimes it is so much fun navigating this city and seeing all the sights…but I’ve been struggling a little bit. It’s been a lot of drinking and eating because that it just the culture here…and it’s sooo different from my lifestyle back home which was hardly ever drinking (a wine tasting here and there) and walking down the beach every morning.  Everyday I seem to go from “I love this place” to “What the f*** am I doing here?”. I think it will just take a while to settle in and find the right routine and hobbies.  I do really like the Korean food, especially Korean BBQ’s galbi (beef) and samgipsal (pork).

view from the elevator of my apartment building…home sweet home 🙂