I blame it on a lot of things…..but there really is no excuse. So I am hoping that if I load this post with a lot of pictures, you, my readers, will forgive me for the little hiatus I took from the blogging world.

So, the holidays were definitely different for us here in Korea. First off, I would like to thank my mother’s side of the family in Seoul and also the kind friends and church members as well. You made our holiday a lot more full and we are so grateful for that. This was my first Christmas away from my immediate family and my first Christmas in a foreign country. We had a lot of fun!

Our holiday celebrations started with a church activity. We had a great Korean dinner and some fun watching a talent show. Santa also made a surprise visit to the kids and handed out little gifts to each of them. Maya was afraid of him.
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Here’s a video of some of the kids in the talent show:

On Christmas Eve I attended Midnight Mass at the Myeongdong Cathedral (please click on the link to learn a little more about this national treasure) with my aunt and uncle. We got there just in time for Mass to start, which meant that we were not able to get any seats. Luckily, they had a huge screen set up outside for those who wanted to participate in the Mass. Unfortunately, I didn’t get an shots of the outside of the building, it was much too dark, but I did get to sneak in after Mass and get some shots of the interior. I also got some pics of the small area where the Blessed Virgin Mary statue was. That night there were hundreds of small candles lit there. I also got some pictures of the beautiful Nativity they had set up outside.

Altar boys waiting for the Procession to start:

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Here is a view of the altar area (apse, I think) from where I was standing in the nave:

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Here is a closer view of where the altar is:

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Here is a picture of the beautiful pipe organ in the rear end of the Cathedral. They had an orchestra seated here as well as a choir for the Mass. The music was beautiful!

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Here are some pics of the outside area with the Virgin Mary statue. With all the

little colorful candles burning it was such a wonderful sight.

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And finally, here are some pics of the Nativity they had set up outside of the

Cathedral (my aunt is in one of them):

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Sadly, Daniel and Maya were at home. It was just too late (and too cold!) for Maya to come out Also, 엄마, 사진 더 못 찍어서 미안해요!

Christmas day we spent at my grandfather’s house visiting with family and just relaxing. So, anyway, somehow I got really sick before the new years and I wasn’t able to go hike 관악산 (Mount Gwanak) to see the sun rise on the new year…well, I don’t know if I would have gone even if I was ok…so I stayed home with Maya while Daniel went and did that with the other men at church. He had a wonderful time doing it and he said it was amazing. He learned that for some Koreans (maybe all) it was an important thing to see the sun rise on the new year. So, here are some pictures of his hike.

Here’s Daniel on the mountain looking tired but invigorated:

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Here is a view of one of the other peaks swarming with Korean people in their Everest gear. Daniel said that all the peaks looked like this one:

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Apparently, even at 5 in the morning the buses were full of hikers going to Gwanak-san

to watch the sun rise!

Here is a picture of the men from church (and even one woman!) who braved

the early morning trek:

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And yes, we had 떡국 (ddeok-guk= a soup with pounded rice cakes) and “ate” another year. 떡국 is the traditional dish you eat at the new years. When you eat this soup then you turn another year older. So, just an interesting question. We just finished celebrating the Lunar New Years which was on Feb. 7th (both new years are celebrated in Korea) and we ate 떡국 again, so does that mean we “ate” 2 years? Ha ha ha.
Anyways, we had a lot of fun for the holidays. Besides the places we went, I had a hand at trying to bake here in Korea. I wanted to bake this pumpkin bread for my family for Christmas. It is a delicious recipe I got from my mother-in-law and one that I made a lot in the States…maybe some of you remember which one I am talking about (recipe at end of post). Well, the ingredients was such an adventure to find. The Korean grocery stores are packed full of wonderful and exotic ingredients to make Korean food but you can’t find anything to make a cake…besides sugar and flour and eggs…and that wouldn’t make a very good cake. So, I did some research and found some foreign food markets in and around Itaewon (a neighborhood close by the American military base–well-known for its bars, foreign food, and of course…foreigners).

I was looking for this:

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and found all of this:

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the package of baking powder doesn’t count cause it’s Korean. But, I was able to find vanilla extract and nutmeg… it was amazing! But that is not it! Between the two stores I visited, Foreign Food Market and Hannam Supermarket, I found tons of stuff. You can buy anything from Italian pesto to Indian curry powder to good ol’ American tillamook cheese. The stores are just packed with so many foreign goods that I am not even going to attempt to name all of what they have. The only down side to this all is that the prices are expensive. I blame it on all the dumb import laws and tariffs that Korea has on foreign goods. But, that is a topic for another post. Anyway, the pumpkin bread which I have made 3 times since was and has been a success. I will put more info on how to get to these foreign stores at the end of the post for my readers here in Korea (if there are any…) just incase you can’t find what you need at Costco.

Here are some quick snapshots of Itaewon as I was walking to the Foreign Food Market. If you look close you can see all the foreign signs for restaurants and stuff:

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Unfortunately, I haven’t taken any photos of the foreign market or of Hannam mart so I will have to do that another time.

Anyway, here is how to get to Foreign Food Mart: take the subway to Itaewon (line number 6) and leave via exit #3. Walk towards the fire station. At that intersection turn right heading up the hill towards Bokwang-dong Elementary School (also on your way to the Mosque). Just past King Club, Foreign Food Mart is on your left.

How to get to Hannam Supermarket: take the subway to Hangangjin (line number 6–just after Itaewon) come out of exit #2, keep walking until you come to the intersection and cross the pedestrian bridge. Go right after the bridge, until you see the Volvo building ahead on your left. You should then see the stairs on your left going down to the market.

(these are the directions I used to find them myself, they are from various internet sites).

Pumpkin bread recipe:

3 cups sugar 1 cup cooking oil
3 ½ cups flour 2/3 cup water
2 tsp soda 4 eggs
¼ tsp salt 2 cups thick cooked pumpkin
1 tsp. cinnamon (or canned)
1 tsp. nutmeg 1 tsp. vanilla
¼ tsp. ginger 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

In large mixing bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients and mix well. Make a hole in the center. Pour in the wet ingredients, including the pumpkin. Mix well. Add nuts and stir.
Grease and flour three 9-inch loaf pans or use Bundt cake pan.
Pour batter into pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 – 1 ¼ hours, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Freezes well. Recipe may be used for muffins with shorter cooking time.

* Personally, I only use 2 bread loaf pans because the loafs seem small to me if divide between 3 pans. Also, it tastes just as good without the ginger.

* I like pumpkin cookies so I substituted the nuts for chocolate chips.

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