This photo was taken in May 2018 in a sauna. My mother-in-law had been avoiding bathhouses because she had mastectomy done as cancer treatment. In Korea, appearances are important and physical “flaws” can cause major embarrassment. I somehow managed to persuade her by saying that everyone will be focusing on themselves rather than people-watching in the bathhouse.
In the end, the bathhouse turned out to be more terrifying for me than for her. Emmett was a tiny bubba 8 months young, and there were only a few pools with a suitable temperature for him (~37°C). I’m not sure if you’ve encountered Korean ajummas, but their level of entitlement is next level. A bunch of ajummas waded over and wrangled Emmett out of my arms because he was “so cute” and they all wanted to hold him. Years of studying the language and culture of Korea did not prepare me for this.
Two years should be enough to recover from that traumatic experience (kidding, we busted our budget on Japan last year) and so we booked tickets to Korea and Jeju for late April through May. That timing is perfect because it overlaps two Public Holidays here and the Golden Week in Korea. Taking long leave in Korea is unheard of and it was the perfect time for my BIL and SIL to hang out as well.
From the way things are going, I doubt the dust will settle in time for us to visit. We’ve since cancelled the Jeju trip. I’ve put in a refund request for our other flight too because nobody can come out alive after 14 days indoors with two kids. Maybe they’ll survive physically, but they’ll be dead inside. 😭
Right now, the only thing that needs to die is C19. Someone once told me that certain gods are mercenary gods – you give them offerings in exchange for things that you want. That’s an idea.
There is a Korean mart that I frequent that’s located at Basement 1 of Northpoint City, aptly named K-Market. I’ve found the items to be reasonably priced compared to other marts with a wider variety. They have a little slip of paper where you get a stamp for every $20 spent and with every 10 stamps, you get $5 off. I’m such a regular that I’ve redeemed at least $15.
Shopping there feels therapeutic and the store manager is so friendly. He resembles Yoo Min Sang, a Korean gagman and I’ve never seen him without a smile. He’s Korean so he can’t speak Chinese.
Every single time I visit, he passes us some items that are nearing expiry for free. It’s similar to the relationship between aunties at the wet market and their favourite fishmonger. We never fail to get Seolleim ice cream when we’re there. It’s this frozen ice cream in a pouch and tastes like heaven.
My purchases are more or less the same and most items are bought to alleviate my husband’s cravings for Korean food.
#1 Convenience Food
Rice Bowls The two rice bowls were on 1+1 sale and seem to be a healthier alternative to ramyeon. They work the same way – pour boiling water to a level and pour the seasoning packets in.
Cold Noodles/Naengmyeon The packet on the side is cold noodles/naengmyeon which come with buckwheat noodles, sauce packets and oil. This is nowhere near instant, but cuts out a huge amount of time compared to if you boiled the broth yourself. The noodles have to be boiled, rinsed a few times with running water, dunked in ice water while you mix in the sauce with ice or blended ice. You have to add in the ingredients like meat slices, cucumber and egg yourself.
Togi Spicy Beef Soup Total cop-out frozen soup from Togi restaurant that I boil straight from frozen. Yes, I’m that lazy, I don’t even defrost it. This has all the ingredients necessary. This costs $12 each. There are other flavours too. The link is to Harinmart, which is a reliable online mart for Korean foodstuff and not under the same company as K-Market.
#2 Frozen Food
These three items were not purchased from K-Market, but are what I usually buy.
Busan Fishcake Slices Vastly different from the type of fishcakes found in our local fishball noodles, these fishcakes are the type that are used in Korean fishcake soup, tteokbokki and side dishes. We just had some panfried and cut into strips for dinner. This is processed so it’s best not to gorge on it.
Rolled Seaweed Fritters Kimmari are battered seaweed fritters with noodles inside. It sounds icky, but pop these into an air fryer and dip them in sauce or use them as a tteokbokki ingredient.
Dumplings These go everywhere – in ramyeon, panfried, steamed… I make a quick sauce using soy sauce, chilli oil and vinegar to dip the fried dumplings in.
#3 Anchovies & Kelp
Now that you know my secret, I’ll have to silence you. This is one of the most commonly used broth bases in Korean cooking. Using broth instead of plain water gives your dishes more flavour.
The other seasoning that many Korean restaurants use is Dashida, or bouillon seasoning. The beef flavour is most commonly used but it’s not easily found locally. There’s clam, anchovy, seafood, mushroom but no beef.
Black Bean Powder Jjajang base. Fry up some meat and chopped vegetables before adding this powder and water to form a sauce that can be poured over noodles or rice.
Frying Mix I mainly use this to make kimchi or potato pancakes.
“Morning Rice” drink/Achimhaetsal A rice milk drink made from three types of rice – black, white and brown. It tastes like almond milk.
Fruit Vinegars/Hongcho I ever watched a Korean documentary programme which featured this old man who had fruit vinegar the first thing in the morning as a secret to his longevity. I am… not following his strategy, but I do like the taste of it mixed with iced water. It’s tangy and zingy. There’s a dispenser at K-Market for you to try it out before buying.
Barley Tea, Corn Tea My husband doesn’t like the taste of plain water. In our household, we drink this in place of water. We boil a huge pot with one teabag which fills three 1L pitchers, an airpot and more. Each week, we boil about three pots or more. The taste is mild and not sweet with a light fragrance.
Freebies are called service. Yep. These were given free on my most recent trip where I hauled about 10kg of groceries back with two kids. Loved the macaron cookies. It’s a shame they were individually packed though. So much waste.
Next time, I’ll see if I can show the usual recipes I create at home with these.
DrawnBy: Jessica and #ohmymats by Audrey of thelittleonesinmylife sell reusable silicone drawing and colouring mats. Reusable silicone mats have been around for quite a while but these two brands are local brands with their own designs.
DrawnBy: Jessica was started by Jessica who turned her doodles into colouring mats. DrawnBy: Jessica mats are customised from a China supplier.
#ohmymats is described as Audrey’s personal give back project with a focus on struggling artists and persons with special needs. Two of the artists in the team are children with autism. According to Audrey, #ohmymats took four years from conceptualisation to launch, as she sought out reputable suppliers, designed and created the mats from scratch and ensured that the necessary safety tests were conducted and legal documentation were in order. #ohmymats are made in Korea and the mat has unique features exclusive to them.
DrawnBy: Jessica has an imperfect sale where $5 from the sale of mats with slight defects are donated to charity.
A few months ago, I ordered a DrawnBy: Jessica mat but as it was a gift, I didn’t have the opportunity to use it. I also ordered #ohmymats during the preorder sale and did a review. Afterwards, I received a DM from Jessica asking if I was aware of DrawnBy: Jessica mats.
For the purpose of this review, I ordered two mats with a set of markers from each brand, one large and one small from #ohmymats and two standard mats from DrawnBy: Jessica.
The total amount after including $7 Qxpress shipping for DrawnBy: Jessica ($49.80) was comparable to #ohmymats ($51.45). Shipping for #ohmymats is free but for $5, you can opt to have your #ohmymats order sent in a carton box as fragile courier and in a carton box via express courier for $10.
Both sites use Shopify to process orders and payments.
Shipping was efficient. I received my orders via Qxpress for DrawnBy: Jessica and Ninjavan for #ohmymats. It’s a bit unrelated, but I have to compliment the Ninjavan courier. I wasn’t home and the courier helped to hide it “in a secure location” and took a photo for me. It was indeed well hidden out of sight. Qxpress couriers don’t inform before they arrive, but my regular delivery woman will call if she finds that nobody is home.
Both DrawnBy: Jessica and #ohmymats pack their standard orders in poly mailers. #ohmymats has other packaging options for an extra fee.
DrawnBy: Jessica mats come in plastic PVC drawstring bags which can be used to bring the mats and markers around. The markers were packaged simply in disposable plastic.
#ohmymats are packaged in plastic see through boxes with product information clearly listed at the back. Included in the box is a printout with usage instructions and the sticker in front shows the design of the mat.
#ohmymats come in two sizes – small and large and each design comes in either small or large.
Size comparison of the mats.
DrawnBy: Jessica has an embossed logo on the bottom left of each mat, whereas the placement of #ohmymats’s logo with the artist’s unique signature forms part of the printed design.
DrawnBy: Jessica has a imperfect sale where products which have failed QC are sold at a discount and $5 from each mat donated to charity. Imperfect sales are only held at her pop-up stores for buyers to inspect the quality first hand.
The mats in this review were purchased online. The edge of my Space Adventures mat was not neatly rounded off, but that’s a small matter to me.
There were two other obvious blemishes on my mat. One was a blurred outline and the other, a faded spot on the outline. My expectations are not high but paying full price for an imperfect mat doesn’t feel good. The mat is no longer eligible for a refund as I noticed the blemishes after colouring on it. DrawnBy: Jessica’s refund policy states that “For DrawnBy: Washable Silicone Drawing and Colouring Mats to be eligible for a return, your item must be unused and in the same condition that you received it. It must also be in the original packaging.” To be safe, please check your mats in their original packaging on the day you receive them.
* UPDATE 24/11/2018 Jessica contacted me to do a partial refund of $8 to make this an imperfect mat sale, which I accepted.
The corners on #ohmymats are cut out smoothly. This review was focused on the two designs I ordered. There are some misalignments on certain #ohmymats designs and these can be seen from the stock photos. If you notice other defects with your mats, please email #ohmymats for after sales service.
#ohmymats appears to be thicker after folding and is more opaque than DrawnBy: Jessica, which makes it more suitable as a blank sheet for doodling or colouring when flipped. I don’t have calipers so I am unable to measure the exact thickness due to #ohmymats’s raised border. DrawnBy: Jessica is on the left and #ohmymats, on the right.
The mat can be folded or rolled up and stored in a pouch. This shows the mats folded into eighths.
#ohmymats has a raised edge along the mat to aid children in colouring within the mat.
When colouring on the DrawnBy: Jessica using their markers, I noticed a pungent smell that was not noticeable with #ohmymats. All mats were used after removal from their respective packaging. I realised the smell came from the markers (see below) and unwashed mat. I tried again on a washed mat and the smell was slightly reduced.
There are a lot of details on DrawnBy: Jessica’s mats and this may take a younger child more time to finish colouring the entire mat. Case in point: We brought it out for dinner. Elise started off colouring seriously with different colours but gave up halfway and scribbled the remaining characters and background brown.
#ohmymats are drawn by various artists and every artist has their own artistic style and interpretation of the theme. Overall, the details of the characters are kept simpler with more white space in between them.
After colouring, I left out both mats for about three days before wiping the colours off with wet wipes. Both wiped off cleanly with wet wipes. However, do note that DrawnBy: Jessica advises customers not to leave colours in overnight as the colours may stick to the silicone. If this happens, you may need isopropyl alcohol to deep clean the mat.
Java markers are produced by JAVAPEN. Products are required to be safe before being retailed. JAVAPEN has passed Korea product safety tests. Antimicrobial PP body, marker caps are EN-71 certified to prevent choking
Fine tip, more suitable for older children or adults
Marker ink from Korea, marker body assembled in China
Marker ink and marker made in Korea.
DrawnBy: Jessica markers are more watery, making it easy to colour and the colours come out stronger, but the smell of solvent makes me wary to let Elise handle it. It was the strongest smelling compared to Daiso and Java markers. Following this review, I’ve had feedback from other parents that their DrawnBy: markers don’t smell, so please don’t take my word for it. Mine could be a bad batch.
For #ohmymats, the fine tipped Java markers glided on smoothly, but fine tip markers are more suitable for older children or adults as younger children who cannot control their strength may break the nibs. #ohmymats stocks Unicorn markers with thicker nibs for younger children.
Wipe with wet wipes or wash with water and soap
Wipe with wet wipes or wash with water and soap.
Do not leave colours in overnight or colours may stick to silicone.
Use Isopropyl alcohol for stubborn stains.
Though silicone colouring mats can be easily customised and ordered from online suppliers in China, DrawnBy: Jessica took the extra step to brand their markers and use PVC drawstring bags to improve on the overall outlook. While it is reassuring to know that the raw materials have been lab tested in China to be safe, the completed printed mat has yet to be sent for lab testing. This is because the composition may change during the manufacturing process. The marker ink colours (red, blue, green and black inks) were tested in 2013. The marker ink smelled bad enough for me to stop Elise from using them.
#ohmymats have passed lab tests in Korea for the raw silicone and printing ink and are confirmed to be food grade. The completed mat has been tested in Singapore to comply with European Toy standards. Silicone has many grades. The material of #ohmymats is platinum premium silicone which has more tensile strength, more expensive as a raw material and most importantly, the platinum curing process does not produce peroxide residues. JAVA markers are produced by an established Korean company and has passed strict safety tests.
Nevertheless, if you are not too concerned about toy safety (my kids play with cheap figurines from China), both mats function as they should as reusable colouring mats.
* I paid for both DrawnBy: and #ohmymats and was not compensated by any party. This review is based on my own experience. You are welcome to make your own comparison between the two brands. If you are the owner of either brand and would like to make clarifications or updates, please contact me.