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Check out my last Korea post here. Another of my uncles lives in Jinju, a southern city I associate with a strong patriotic spirit and history. He is a master potter, so we got to tour his workshop for a bit and bring home a few pieces that sit on my display shelves with other prized dishware. While in the city he took us on a tour of the famous Jinjuseong fortress which also houses the Jinju National Museum. I got excited in one area of the fortress where there stood a large portrait of a woman named Nongae. If you've ever learned Korean history you will have heard this famous story: during the Imjin War, one of the many times Japan invaded Korea, Nongae's husband (she was actually a concubine) was assassinated. After gaining victory over the Jinju fortress, the Japanese generals held a celebration and forced all the gisaeng (Korean geisha) to entertain them, including Nongae. During the celebration she led one noted, very drunk general to the edge of a cliff, embraced him, clamped her hands together with rings that locked, and plunged off the cliff into the river below, sacrificing herself to take the life of the general. The portrait that stands to commemorate her act of patriotism then points you to a pathway leading to the spot where it happened, which is named the "Rock of Righteousness." Some people say this is only a myth, but her story stands as an example of Korean patriotism, sacrifice, and the influence of a strong woman.

As we wandered the grounds we also stumbled upon an archery activity they keep open for tourists to experience. We laughed and had fun with that for a while, then toured the national museum. If you ever find yourself in Jinju, I recommend this site. I actually enjoyed it more than Korea's most famous palace Gyeongbokgung in Seoul, although Gyeongbokgung is really fun at New Year's when they have all kinds of traditional activities for tourists to try.

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This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser, MARS Incorporated. All opinions are mine alone. #SweeterEaster #CollectiveBias

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As I'm writing this it's early in the morning and I'm wrapped up in a thick blanket with my sweet black kitten purring contentedly on my lap. I woke up to messages from my hubby saying he and his brother made it to Palau. They're on a scuba trip for the next while, and every time I tell people about it they are stunned I would let them go without me. Really, it was my suggestion. I don't scuba and always feel bad that my hubby can't dive to his heart's content when we're vacationing, plus his brother just returned from a 9-month deployment so it was good timing. But I can't say I'm not the slightest bit jelly. They had a long layover in Taiwan which I've been eager to visit, and have been messaging me photos of all their delicious lounge food. But it's okay, I always counter with my own food photos. Sorry boys, but your bulk sheets of brownie bars cannot compare to my homemade treats. At least I win in the dessert category.

These cookies are a truly decadent treat and a magical combination. I love these peanut butter cookies so much, and didn't think I could love them more, but...enter the DOVE® Peanut Butter Egg. Literally as soon as these soft, chewy things are out of the oven you plop an entire egg on top, sprinkle with salt, and omg it's a mind-blowing collaboration. Obvi I get a little overexcited about food, but #sorrynotsorry. I think these would be such a sweet give-able Easter treat so I even put together a tutorial for some bunny cookie bags. They kinda look like CD envelopes don't they? All the supplies and the DOVE® Peanut Butter Eggs can be found at Walmart where they are brand spanking new. And keep scrolling for an Ibotta coupon.

I can think of tons of people who could benefit from these yummy Easter treats, who would you give one to? Run to Walmart for a plethora of Easter supplies, and find even more delicious Easter ideas HERE.

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Salted Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies
Makes about 16 large cookies
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 pkg.s (need 16 pieces) DOVE® Peanut Butter Egg
  • 2 Tbsp kosher salt

Directions:

Beat together the butter and peanut butter. Add the brown sugar, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, the baking powder and baking soda, and continue to beat. Next add the vanilla extract and egg and beat to combine. Mix in the flour all at once until there are no powder streaks left. Loosely cover your mixing bowl and place in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicon mats. Pour your leftover 1/4 cup sugar into a small shallow bowl.

Form dough into 1-1/2 inch balls and roll in the sugar. Place 2 inches apart on your cookie sheet. Use a fork to flatten the cookies and make a criss-cross. Bake for about 10 minutes until the edges are golden brown. Remove from oven and immediately place a DOVE® Peanut Butter Egg on each cookie. When it begins to melt, sprinkle each with a pinch of kosher salt. If the top doesn't become melt-y enough for the salt to stick, use a kitchen torch or lighter to gently warm it. Let cool completely.



Peanut Butter Cookie recipe adapted from here

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How to Make Cookie Bunny Bags:

What You Need:
  • this template
  • card stock
  • scissors
  • ruler
  • double-sided tape
  • 5-inch cellophane bags

1. Print the template onto as many pieces of card stock as you plan to make. Choose double-sided when you print, or if your printer is as weak sauce as mine (it has trouble printing double-sided on thick paper) then do it manually: choose to print the first page on all of your sheets, then flip over and select to print only the second side.
2. Gather your supplies: scissors, a ruler, double-sided tape.
3. Cut out the template.

4. Cut out the window by scoring deeply with the scissors. See it the square pops out on it's own, or help it along with the scissors and trim any uneven edges.
5. Score the remaining lines lightly.
6. Fold the scores.

7. Place double-sided tape along the side tabs and attach them.
8. Your cookie bag should look like so.
9. Stick a cookie in a cellophane bag and slide it into your finished bunny envelope. Seal with a cute sticker or washi tape, and give away as cute Easter treats.

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Have you guys heard of Airbnb Experiences? If you go into your Airbnb app you'll see a new tab for Experiences where you can find all kinds of adventures hosted by people in the city where you're staying. There are things like cooking with a well-known chef, painting with a local art professor, sailing lessons, a trail running tour, etc. Seriously there are all kinds of cool stuff. Airbnb hooked me and hubby up with our very first Experience when we spent the weekend in San Francisco earlier this month. They gave us four choices of what was available and this one just looked the most fun: a cocktail class!

Now, although my hubby's uncanny knowledge of alcohol may lead you believe otherwise (he should go on Jeopardy), the both of us don't actually drink. But we love a good mocktail, and our hosts very kindly went above and beyond to accommodate us. Our class was held at The Dorian, which I will be returning to for brunch next time because the restaurant/bar look and sound uh-mazing. But more on that later. Our class took place at the upstairs bar, which I'm guessing is normally a spot for private parties and events. We arrived early, so after taking a moment to heart-eye the gorgeous deep blue tufted seating (the sofa of my dreams), we chatted for a bit with our host and mixoligist until everyone arrived.  Or I should say hubby chatted, while I distractedly changed from lens to lens trying to figure out what kind of shots I wanted. I believe our host's name was Ilya, who hails from Russia, and our mixoligist was Jacob. Both were so knowledgeable and made the class feel more like an intimate get-together with friends.

We started our class by learning from Jacob the basics of cocktails: seasonality, ingredients, styles and themes, history, etc. He really knows what he's talking about and it was so fun watching his bartender skills up close. After our initial crash-course and a few tastings, we each got a chance to get behind the bar and whip up our own cocktail creation with Jacob's help. Before class I had mentioned an awful virgin mudslide I'd had on my honeymoon (I'm sure they were quite stunned and bewildered to be asked for a virgin mudslide, it really wasn't their fault haha!), so they took the challenge upon themselves to help me create my own virgin mudslide. Ilya ran downstairs to the kitchen to grab some unorthodox bar ingredients, and Jacob helped me taste test my way to a delicious chocolate-y mudslide that has redeemed the drink for me. It was cool to see how they could form such a perfect drink on the spot using all the cocktail basics we had learned about earlier in the class.

In the class description it says that you can expect two drinks: one welcome drink and the one that you create, and that they are heavy on hors d'oeuvres. Beyond the two drinks you do a lot of cocktail tastings as your mixoligist demonstrates techniques, and when they say they are heavy on hors d'oeuvres they really mean it! We did not even come close to finishing all the delicious offerings during the course of our class.

Anyways, I didn't mean to write this much, but I had such a blast at this class and can't help but rave about it. Big thanks to Airbnb, Ilya, and Jacob for the awesome Experience! I will definitely be back to the Dorian for more deliciousness, and will for sure be doing more Experiences. Huge recommend to all of you, you need to check it out! And if you're near SF you can find the cocktail class here.

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This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #99YourEaster #DoingThe99 #CollectiveBias

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Welcome to my first Easter post! There will be many more to come, so hold onto your hats. Easter is one of my favorite holidays (let's be honest, they're all my favorite) because it's close to my birthday and it's when everything begins to thaw and bloom. Every Easter growing up we held our traditional egg hunt with all six of my siblings, and the best were the ones that kept on giving. Like weeks or even months later you're cleaning a couch and find an egg hidden deep in it's crevices that no one caught. Or when you're on a family road trip not long after, and it's so long that by the end everyone is so restless they start going a little crazy and people end up with Cadbury eggs smashed into their hair. True story. Funny how these are my fondest Easter memories haha!

Today's recipe is one of those that would be great as a family bonding activity. As an alternative to egg decorating, you can have a strawberry decorating party! These Easter egg inspired strawberries were so fun and easy, and best of all budget-friendly. Whereas I consider $2.50 a great price for strawberries around my parts, at 99 Cents Only I found them for...you guessed it, 99 cents. And if you take a look at my photos, everything from the doilies to the sugar, flour, vanilla, cupcake liners, milk, etc...all also from the 99. One day I will compare these cupcakes to some other ones to see how much money I am saving. I actually did not mean for these cupcakes to have so many steps, but I was so impressed with 99 Cents Only's baking and produce supply that I wanted to try making a from-scratch recipe using only their products. But they also sell cake mixes and frostings, so if you're in a rush I recommend those, though I do love this cake recipe.

I talked about 99 Cents Only once before on my blog, but I'm excited to say that they've chosen me to be one of their ambassadors over the next few months, so you will be seeing them a lot more! Regardless of me being an ambassador or not, the 99 is one of my favorite grocery stores, so just know that all of my overexcitement about them is not contrived. I always spend double the time I intend to there because there are always new and exciting products to find, and they have so many brands I love for amazing prices. On my last visit I found Haribo extra sour spaghetti, which is my hubby's favorite candy and hard to find here, and was so excited to bring it home to him. The funny thing is that he was in Germany at the time and brought back a packet of some other sour Haribo candy, but it remains unopened while the spaghetti is nearly gone. The 99 wins again.

What are your favorite things to 99?? Find more budget-friendly inspo and ideas HERE, as well as a location finder so you can know where your nearest store is!

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Strawberry Easter Cupcakes
Makes about 1 dozen cupcakes

Cupcakes:
  • 1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 tsp almond extract
  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • strawberry jam
Frosting:
  • 1/2 cup egg whites (about 4 large eggs)
  • 1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • pinch salt
  • strawberry jam
Strawberries:
  • 1 pint medium strawberries
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 Tbsp + 1 tsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • food coloring

Directions:

For the cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 325F and prep a cupcake pan with liners.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer beat together the butter and sugar for about 5 minutes until very light and fluffy. While beating on low, add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla and almond extract and combine.

In 3 parts alternate mixing the dry ingredients and buttermilk into the batter, beginning and ending with the dry. Scoop batter into cupcake liners, making them 3/4 full. Bake 20-30 minutes until golden brown around the edges. Let cool in the pan for at least 5 minutes, then cool completely on a rack. Clean your electric mixing bowl thoroughly before making the frosting.

For the frosting:
Fill a medium saucepan with 1-1/2-2 inches of water and bring to a simmer on your stove top. Place egg whites and sugar in the bowl of your electric mixer and set over your simmering water. Whisk the egg whites continuously until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture reaches 160F. Immediately remove the bowl from heat and attach to your electric mixer with the whisk attachment. Whisk on med-high until the meringue reaches stiff peaks and the bowl is cooled down. Beat in the vanilla, then beat in the butter 1-2 tablespoons at a time, waiting until incorporated after each addition. Add a pinch of salt and continue beating until the frosting is smooth.

Strawberries:
Rinse and pat dry your strawberries. In a small mixing bowl whisk together the powdered sugar and milk until smooth. If it isn't runny enough to fall from the whisk then add more milk a tiny bit at a time until just smooth. You want the icing to be thick so that it is opaque. Separate into separate bowls for as many colors as you want to make and add food coloring to each as desired. Cover the ones you're not using right away with a damp towel so that they don't dry out.

Prep a piece of parchment paper to rest your strawberries on. Dip them one by one into icing and place on the parchment paper to dry. I moved each strawberry 2-3 times so that icing wouldn't pool on the bottom. Once the icing sets up a bit pipe easter egg decorations onto them and then let them dry fully.

To Assemble:
Use a small paring knife to core the cupcakes and spoon about 1-1/2 tsp of strawberry jam in. Prep a pastry bag and make two stripes up the sides with strawberry jam. Add the frosting and pipe onto your cupcakes. Top with strawberries just before serving. The strawberries are best consumed within the day.


Cupcake recipe adapted from Ina

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Welcome to my second Travel Tuesday post! A year ago today I was wrapping up engagement photos for my little brother in NYC and prepping for a trip to Korea with my mom. We had found tickets to Korea on Singapore Airlines for $500rt and couldn't pass them up. Those tickets are still the best Korea deal I've seen (considering both money and airline value) so I'm sure glad we took advantage of them. If you haven't yet, make sure you check out my Travel More series for tips on finding cheap flights and building miles.

My family all lives in the southern parts of Korea. They grew up poor, hard-working farmers in a small village near the city of Changwon, and I always loved hearing my mom's stories about her growing up years. She always told us about how she was the first girl to ride a bike in her village. Only men did that, so she learned in secret at nighttime and would cover her bruises from falling. It came to light one day when she was caring for her brother's baby while the mother worked in the fields. It seemed like there was something wrong with the child, so the only way she could get to the fields fast enough was to borrow the bicycle. I can just imagine her racing along the raised dirt paths as farmers stood up from their work to stare like something out of a movie. Afterwards the whole village gossiped and told her she would never marry because of it, haha. It's interesting to hear about the post-war Korea back then compared to the Korea I know now with it's booming economy and cutting-edge technology.

My oldest uncle now lives in Busan, so while visiting his family I got to explore that city for the first time. It's a city on the sea known for it's strong southern accents, beautiful beaches and great seafood. My uncle took us on a tour around iconic Haeundae and then treated us to a meal of smoked duck (deeeelish). Haeundae beach is possibly the most famous tourist attraction in Busan. Nearby the beach there is Dongbaek Park where we started our tour, checking out the Nurimaru APEC house where summits are held, and views of the famous Gwangan bridge and beach. From there you can stroll along these beautiful pathways built into the sea cliffs that weave you along the rocky shore and bring you to the beach. Check out the photos below. Since it was still March and quite cold there were not many other tourists, but in the warmer months this place can get seriously congested. It's so popular that there is a even a famous movie called Haeundae, a disaster movie about a terrifying tidal wave. It was a big deal when it came out but I still haven't seen it because I'm too weak-hearted for that kind of stuff. But it was a beautiful place and I would love to go back and see what it's like when it's warmer. Have you been?

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