Perhaps this is partly due to the fact that I'll be going home to America for a few weeks to celebrate the holidays with my family. I couldn't be more excited and have been loading up on goodies and gifts to bring home for family and friends.
If you're like me, when it comes time for gift shopping, you stress over what to buy, what to give and if it'll actually be used and enjoyed by the receiver. That's why I've put together this fool-proof gift list of some of my favorite Korean-inspired goodies from around the net that are sure to please any of your Koreaphile friends this Christmas.
Looking for a unique way to remember your trip to Korea, or to share it with a friend? Then look no further than Boomf, a website that offers netizens the opportunity to print their Instagram photos on marshmallows. Yes, you heard that right.
I, too, was skeptical, but was incredibly impressed with the clarity, the quality and the taste of my edible Instagram images of Seoul, which surprisingly paired well with traditional Korean tea. The price ($25.00 USD for a box of 9) may seem steep, but come on... these are your memories on marshmallows! Give them as a gift and never be forgotten.
Alternatively, you can have your exs' faces printed and then roast them over an open fire. With chestnuts. Just like the Christmas song. Follow Boomf on Facebook or on Instagram @boomf.
Gone are the days of shirts and bags with funny English words and expressions. These days, Hangul is all the rage in Seoul. From couture to streetwear, everyone who is anyone is sporting prints that incorporate the Korean alphabet. And why wouldn't they? The Tetris-like characters developed under the rule of King Sejong are not only scientific but beautiful as well. For these very reasons, I am obsessed with the Hangul gifts at Nuishu, a Spain-based Esty shop that sells bags and prints.
I've been sporting Nuishu's Korean Optical Test TOTEBAG ($11.00 USD) all around the city and have received countless compliments on it. It's incredibly unique, fun and kinda sorta inspires me to get back to studying Korean. A fan of makgeolli (rice wine), I've also got my eye on the "Keep Calm and Drink 막걸리" print... might have to get that one framed for my kitchen in the near future.
Coasters have never been the most popular gifts. Practical, sure. Interesting and thoughtful? Not so much. Until now, that is. What once was the most boring present ever has now been transformed into something fun and memorable thanks to Coastermatic, an American business that converts your Instagram photos into absorbent stone coasters ($25.00 USD for a set of 4). Use your (or your friends') photos from your last trip to Korea and relive your favorite travel memories every time you enjoy a beverage.
Mine have proved to be an excellent conversation piece and a great way for me to introduce some of my favorite places in Korea to my friends and guests. Check out others' coasters via @coastermatic on Instagram.
Nothing is more beautiful than a gift hand-crafted using hanji, or traditional Korean paper. Which is why I adore Paper Tree Shop, another Esty vendor. London-based designer Moon Munson incorporates iconic Korean patterns and colors to delicately craft a variety of jewelry, boxes and cards that are most certainly works of art.
Her hanji greeting cards, which are intricate and cut by hand, are especially memorable. The Plum Blossom card ($14.39 USD/ card), is my personal favorite, as the delicate buds, which bloom during the bitter Korean winter, are symbolic of enduring hardship.
When I experienced Korean winter for the first time, my skin freaked out and I spent an entire season with flaky, dry red skin. Fortunately, I had two guardian angels (in the form of two Korean girlfriends) take me under their wings and save me from future winter-induced torture. They taught me the ways of Korean skincare and I have been hooked since.
Fortunately, because I live in Seoul, I have instant access to any Korean product I want. Those living outside the country, however, weren't as lucky until Charlotte Cho, founder of Soko Glam, America's most popular Korean cosmetic retailer, came to the rescue. Charlotte has since shared with the world the secrets to beautiful skin and works hard to find only the best products on the market for her curated online shop.
I know you're all wanting to add these awesome goodies to your Christmas list and I am ready to play Santa, with the help of my generous sponsors as elves. I will be giving away one of the above goodies every week for the entire month of December. Click here to find out how to make that happen. Happy shopping!